Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Hey, kids, let's hop into the Wayback Machine for a jaunt back in time to Santa Cruz in the early 1970s. If you've seen the Big Creek Pottery ceramics and photo exhibit at the MAH, you may have enjoyed the quaint glimpse into commune life of that era, but the fact is, in those days, the same arty Bohemian vibe spread across all aspects of local culture. And perhaps nowhere was this more evident than up on the hill, where the spirit guides of the Santa Cruz arts community were shepherding UCSC through it's first decade of existence.

I was reminded of all this last week when, in the process of searching for something or other online, I stumbled upon an exceptional collection of vintage Santa Cruz images from photographer and former Cruzan Jim Hair. Like me, Jim was a student at the UCSC entity formerly known as College V (now Porter) in the very early '70s. But while I spent most of my time trying to navigate around the campus and get to my (pre-noon) classes on time and awake, Jim was doing something far more useful—documenting life in Santa Cruz, on and off campus, with his trusty Rolleiflex.

The set of 91 SC images on Jim's Flickr site contains some lovely shots of the wild, natural world in places like Pebble Beach, Point Lobos, and the redwoods of UCSC. But it's his collection of stunning portraits that will really melt your heart, especially those of the cultural icons and assorted Godmothers and Godfathers who created and shaped the Santa Cruz arts community that still exists today.

I fell in love with this portrait of Mary Holmes, busily painting angels for her own enjoyment up in her magical hilltop retreat. You'll find the inimitable Jasper Rose, in a natty bow tie, precariously posed on a rustic wooden bench in his art-bedecked hallway, Page Smith and Paul Lee on a picnic, George Hitchcock at work on his printing press, William K. Everson hugging a tree, Wavy Gravy debarking from his bus at the UCSC Quarry, a forthright Angela Davis, Gregory Bateson, screenwriter-to-be Charlie Haas, Futzie Nutzle, and some wonderfully evocative portraits of Jim Houston up in his workroom aerie. And that's just to name a scant few.

These photos aren't about nostalgia. Rather, they represent a kind of alchemy of time, place, spirit, and sensibility, captured by a gifted observer. Take a look, and enjoy!

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