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Humor and Strangeness Captured in 1960s and 1970s America

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“It is a miracle that most of us survived those years,” reads the accompanying text by Sandra S. Phillips in Kenneth Graves’ photo book: The Home Front. “Some of us—in fact, many of us—didn’t make it. Some of us served in that horrendous and misguided war; some of us escaped to Canada or left for other countries to avoid military service, which, at that time, was not voluntary. Some of us were lost to drugs, or to the civil conflicts in the South, or, later, to the devastating new disease called AIDS, which struck with particular ferocity in San Francisco’s Castro district.”

Graves was drafted into the Navy in 1962 but he always knew he was going to be an artist. After enrolling at the San Francisco Art Institute he discovered photography, and it seemed the ideal medium for him. He loved the surprise element of it. “Photography also suited a person, myself,” he said, “who by his nature has always assumed the status of an outsider.”

Focusing on his immediate surroundings, Graves covered San Francisco’s Bay Area, home to members of the Beat Generation and the Haight- Ashbury hippie folk, walking the streets much like Garry Winogrand was doing in New York, capturing intrinsically American scenes during the 1960s and 1970s.

With eyes as sharp as a hawk’s, Graves was acutely alert to the tiny idiosyncrasies and oddities of life; the minute details that the average person would undoubtedly overlook. In his monochrome shots of daily life, Graves captures the humor, strangeness, and the dark flipside of America throughout this transitional period: a time of protests, clashes, war, and ‘flower power’. The combination of dynamic framing and theatrics enhances Graves’ images, setting them apart from others taken during the time and lending them an instant allure as he opens up a refreshingly new field of vision.

The book is available to purchase here at MACK.

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All images © Kenneth Graves 2015 courtesy MACK

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