Pho­tos from Steve Schapiro’s Bliss: Trans­for­ma­tional Fes­ti­vals & the Neo Hip­pie at Mon­roe Gallery

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The fa­mous coun­ter­cul­ture of the 1960s al­ways had two life­styles, one ur­ban and the other more ori­ented to quiet, coun­try liv­ing — in­clud­ing in pi­o­neer­ing com­munes in New Mex­ico and else­where. Half a cen­tury later, a con­tem­po­rary hip­pie move­ment flour­ishes in hun­dreds of eco-vil­lages, and its mem­bers come to­gether for the an­nual Rain­bow Gath­er­ing and other sum­mer fes­ti­vals.

Pho­tog­ra­pher Steve Schapiro of­fers a rev­e­la­tion of mod­ern hip­pie hu­man­ity in his new book, Bliss: Trans­for­ma­tional Fes­ti­vals & the Neo Hip­pie (pow­er­House Books, 2015). At gath­er­ings in Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon, Ne­vada, Michi­gan, Min­nesota, and Hawaii, he cap­tured peo­ple danc­ing, med­i­tat­ing, chant­ing, hug­ging, and bliss­ing out on the sky and earth and one an­other.

The jour­nal­is­tic pho­tog­ra­pher’s port­fo­lio in­cludes cov­ers for Van­ity Fair, Time, Sports Il­lus­trated, Life, Look, Paris Match, and Peo­ple. His books in­clude Amer­i­can Edge, Taxi Driver, and Then and Now. Over the years, Schapiro has doc­u­mented cul­tural mile­stones, such as the civil rights move­ment, Chuck Berry play­ing on the Hul­la­baloo TV show, and out­takes of ac­tors on the set of The God­fa­ther. He pho­tographed Martin Luther King Jr., the Kennedys, ballplayer Satchel Paige, and Andy Warhol.

He also took pic­tures of the orig­i­nal hip­pies in San Fran­cisco’s Haight-Ashbury neigh­bor­hood and through­out Amer­ica. The new pho­tos are strik­ingly sim­i­lar. Some com­mon­al­i­ties are lots of hair and clothes — either mul­ti­col­ored or ab­sent. There is a fo­cus in the new se­ries on the “bliss nin­nies” sub­cul­ture, whose par­tic­i­pants chase ec­stasy with med­i­ta­tion and danc­ing. Rather than ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with psy­che­delic drugs, the em­pha­sis is on yoga, prayer, move­ment, and a ve­gan diet. “There are more com­munes in Amer­ica now than there ever were in the ’60s,” Wavy Gravy de­clares in the book’s af­ter­word. “Check out Com­mu­ni­ties mag­a­zine for a list­ing near you! Just fol­low your bliss and kiss the ground.”

Mon­roe Gallery (112 Don Gas­par Ave., 505-992-0800) hangs a se­lec­tion of the Bliss prints, open­ing on Fri­day, Oct. 30. Schapiro will be at the gallery for a book sign­ing that day from 5 to 7 p.m. — Paul Wei­de­man


Images from Bliss: Trans­for­ma­tional Fes­ti­vals & the Neo Hip­pie; cour­tesy pow­er­House Books

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