Artbound Season 6 Episode 4: Monomania


(Introduction music playing.) In this episode, a look at personal archives
of California history. David Boule’s collection of California Orange
ephemera. The orange became a symbol of California’s
promise. Commercial boosterism, uh, political expediency,
and it all came together. The political posters of the Center for the
Study of Political Graphics. Political posters were not only not considered
an art from, but they weren’t even–they were–they’re being seen as the stepchild of the art world. The family archive of Ernest Marquez. The reason why I started collecting was to
get information, documents, and papers, and photographs of my family. Kent Kirkton’s collection of African-American
photography at Cal State Northridge. It’s amazing the extent to which the ethnic
communities in this city are undocumented in the institutional holdings. Joseph Hawkins’ sci-fi collection at the ONE
National Gay and Lesbian Archives. Homosexuals as a group of people were disproportionally
it seems to me interested in these groups because of their ability to create cover for
meetings. Hi, I’m David Kipen. I run a nonprofit lending library in Boyle
Heights called Libros Schmibros and I teach at UCLA. But I’ve also had the great honor over the
last couple of months of meeting half a dozen people I’d really like to introduce you to. People that we’ve given the name to of monomaniacs
and they’ve been very good sports about that. A monomaniac is somebody who cannot stop collecting
and cannot, in most cases, stop talking about what he’s collecting. Especially the LA monomaniac and I don’t know
why this is. You don’t have to share their monomania. All you need is curiosity about whatever it
is they’re collecting, whatever it is they’re preserving, whatever it is they’re researching. They, as I hope you’ll soon find are uniquely
qualified, probably better qualified than somebody a little more credentialed in the
traditional way to invite you in to their monomania. And if you’re not careful, quite possibly,
you may find it communicable. First segment is about a gentleman named David
Boule who seems like a perfectly normal gentleman, uh, very delightful to talk to. Uh, by day, he’s worked in the advertising
industry, he’s worked in publicity. But at some point, something happened to David
Boule. The most surprising thing about David Boule
is however, uh, stocked and overstocked his orange room is with all of those materials,
you walk into the living room and it’s like, “Wait a minute, I, I thought we were supposed
to meet a monomaniac today?” And then, it’s like this mad scientist who
opens the door and you’ve stepped into planet orange. There are orange, not just juicers, but like
orange salt shakers, and orange crate art, and, uh, wonderful cabinet with little compartments
full of orange this and orange that. And if I had to draw a link between David
Boule’s normal life by day and his orange obsessive life, I would say it has to do with
his career as a writer, as a promotional writer, as an ad man because, of course, the orange
and the entire citrus industry would not have happened if Sunkist hadn’t hired the very
best artist, the very best copywriters, everybody who they thought could promote their product
as well as possible. So, David having worked in this industry obviously,
I think, was drawn to it because these people these very gifted artists and writers and,
uh, souvenir designers around citric culture, um, were the very best at their job. They were every bit as good as anybody designing
tail fins on Madison Avenue. (Instrumental music playing.) I believe that, uh, a personal fascination
and individual zeal have the opportunity to, uh, create a collection that’s not just a
self-indulgence or a hobby, but can actually have value to the wider world. Um, a love of history and a collector’s gene
can work together to gather materials that otherwise might be dispersed, unavailable
to researchers, and make connections that have real value to the wider world. I’ve been interested for years as, as just
somebody interested in culture and history about the, the uniqueness of California. And many decades ago, a friend of mine was
a graphic artist. Uh, he was working on a project. He took me to a paper ephemera show, something
I have never heard of before. I walked in, there were dozens of vendors
selling literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper that shouldn’t have been there. These were receipts, menus, uh, matchbooks,
uh, postcards. And so, while my friend was working and looking
for the materials he needed, I was entertaining my, myself going through tens of thousands
of postcards. And I gravitated towards that quintessential
iconic image snowcapped mountains, a beautiful sky, a manicured orchard, a lovely home, um,
and I just thought they were great. Well, I have the collector’s gene for a lack
of, uh, any other descriptor. And when I had two, then I wanted to find
more, and when I had more, then I wanted to have all of them. And I now have about 600, uh, unique, uh,
postcards all dealing with the California citrus industry. Uh, and I think that alone is, is pretty interesting
that an industrial enterprise could produce 600 images that someone thought someone else
would wanna buy. They did buy them, they sent them, and people
saved them. Uh, these things are sixty, seventy, a hundred
years old, and they were not thrown away, they, they resonated with people of then and
now. As I begin to collect and, and as I had this
idea that there was a story behind these images, I, uh, began to refine my collection, expand
my collection in some ways to find additional materials besides postcards that showed how
the orange was always perceived as special. And that California, since it has Kevin Starr’s,
uh, entered history as a myth, um, and that California as a special place of promise,
of potential, uh, of reinvention, and the orange fit right in. It was, uh, it was destiny that the two would
come together in some kind of a way. And the orange became a symbol of California’s
promise and potential. Uh, I have organized these, um, originally
just as a hobby, but then as I begin to work on the book, um, and pull items out that I,
I knew would be extra, uh, useful in the research. Um, but I have organized them by subject matter,
so we start with these kind of billboard, um, uh, images of California Orange Day. And, uh, this was a, a day that was celebrated
up and down the State of California. Um, it was one of those, uh, lovely, uh, combinations
of sincere enthusiasm, commercial boosterism, uh, political expediency, and it all came
together. There was a time in California where, um,
from the Valley to Orange County, from, from Ventura all the way down to San Diego, uh,
many people could, uh, get up in the morning and open a window and smell, uh, the wonderful
fragrance of orange blossoms. Um, the–it is hard to overemphasize how big
the California orange industry was. In 1895, Riverside, California from growing
oranges had the highest per capita income in America. And in 1920, as recently as 1920, the number
two revenue source in the entire State of California only behind oil was oranges. It was a huge industry. And while it was huge, most of the groves
were small, three to ten acres. And many people owned a small orchard for
additional income, school teachers, shop keepers, celebrities. Um, while they were, were certainly commercial
growers, there were also many people who just had a hundred trees and, uh, and grew them,
uh, for, um, to augment their income. This is the famous legendary California orange
crate. These were, um, produced by the thousands,
maybe the millions. All oranges were packed in, uh, boxes just
like this one. After much experimentation, this size, this
weight, this construction was deemed, uh, the best for shipping fresh fruit, uh, thousands
of miles. Sunkist, uh, was the largest by far packer
and shipper of, uh, oranges. And, um, because they wanted a stable supply
of the wood needed to, uh, produce these, uh, they invested in large swaths of, uh,
timber which they still own to this day. (Instrumental music playing.) As a collector, the, the hunt is, is a big
part of it. Having the items is thrilling, but searching
for them, and discovering them, and coming upon them is, is really part of the draw. And so, I will never lose, um, the, uh, interest
in doing that, but I have studiously avoided doing that. Um, I, um, I still have the collector’s gene,
um, but I have some, uh, ideas for other projects. And I wanted to devote my attention, and efforts,
and energy in that direction. Um, and, yes, I, I still slide occasionally
back and, and type in California orange orchard and, and just see what pops up. Uh, I did it just the other day and, and there
were some images that I thought were very compelling. Not, not more compelling than images I have,
just variations on a theme. Um, there would be–would’ve been a time when
I, I, I would’ve scooped those up immediately, but I did not. So, uh, once I had one juicer, I thought,
“Wow, what other juicers could there possibly be?” And so, I did go down a, uh, a path of collecting
lots of Sunkist juices because over the decades, um, the size, color, and materials changed
as aesthetic taste, uh, changed in America. And, um, I got, uh, waylaid–high jacked,
uh, by, um, all the variations there were. And so, I now have, uh, a number of these,
uh, and they’re quite heavy when you go to move them. One of the things I think that a monomaniac
collector can do is to burrow so deep and with such focus into something and find connections
that perhaps a formally trained academic just wouldn’t have the time, maybe not the interest,
um, but to really dig down into the kind of minutiae that might have historical relevance,
it may not. I, I mentioned that I got sidetracked with
the electric juicers and how they have all go over 20 or 30 years. Um, I now have those. There may be a story there, there may be a
story of the companies that were subcontracted to, uh, produce these. There may be a story from a design home decorating
aspect, why did they change? Why did they get larger or smaller? Why did the color of the glass bowl changed
from tin to Vaseline glass, to jadeite glass, to, you know, something else? So, there are lots of stories to tell. Um, and if, if someone without monomania didn’t
collect it, it would just be dispersed and harder for someone else to begin to see that
such variation existed, and what does that mean, and how that–how can that be a part
of a larger story that they’re going to tell? Carol Wells is the founder of the Center for
the Study of Political Graphics, um, which if you’re driving down Sepulveda through Culver
City, uh, on your left, look for the totally nondescript building that you will not see
no matter how hard you are looking for it. But you step inside and it is, uh, archive
doesn’t do it justice. This is an office filled with what must be
poster-holders that are purpose-built because you would not otherwise find something this
large hanging in ranks from the ceiling. Um, with inside of them a kind of living history
or at least it feels alive of political graphics, not just in America, but all over the world. These are posters that have, in many cases,
been through war. And Carol’s collection was, I believe, among
the very first if not the first of its kind anywhere in the world. But if you think of it as an international
collection, which it certainly is, your risk of missing out on what a very LA story it
is, not just because of Carol’s own background, growing up here, being politicized in demonstrations
here, but also, you know, many of the posters as you might imagine are posters that have,
uh, come to light right here in town because of the many struggles that have been fought
right here in Southern California. This is where it belongs. And thank heaven, this is where, uh, it appears
it’s gonna stay for a good long time. (Instrumental music playing.) When I first started collecting, I wasn’t
collecting, uh, to collect. Uh, when I first started collecting, it was
as, as a, as a, um, as a solidarity activist, and I was using the posters that I collected
to organize against US Wars in Central America. So, there was no idea of starting a center. There was no idea of being a collector. I, I didn’t see it as art. I didn’t want it hanging on my wall. I didn’t see this primary historical documentation,
it was a poster. And it was–and I literally had that attitude
almost–that dismissive attitude of a poster, that once I realized how important posters
are, that I was resenting that attitude in other people. In 1981, I went to Nicaragua because I was
hired as a research assistant to help David Kunzle who was a full professor, art historian,
and he had 7,000, 8,000 posters that he’d been collecting since the Vietnam War period. And he would go every summer to a different
country and collect posters. And one day, we went into the women’s organization
and they were planning a big demonstration for, like, a couple days later in the week. And they just had delivered a pile–I mean,
uh, you know, hundreds if not more, of the poster that they produced for this demonstration. And you could still smell the ink. It was that–it was literally hot off the
press. And so, they gave me like two dozen of them. And I–and I didn’t know what I was gonna
do with two dozen of them. So, I, I figured I keep five or six to take
back to LA, and I was re-gifting them. You know, uh, people would, you know, give
me a poster, I said, “Would you like a poster?” And we were living with a family. The woman was a nurse, the man was an accountant,
they were very strong supporters of the Sandinistas, but they were middle class living in a middle
class neighborhood, and a middle class–you know, their neighbors were really divided. The ones who supported the Sandinistas and
the ones who hated the Sandinistas. So, I’d given Bella, the, the woman of the
house, um, one of the posters. And she put it up in her living room on the
wall. So, this is, this is the poster that changed
my life. (Instrumental music playing.) One of the anti-Sandinistas neighbors came
over for consultation and she had her eight or nine year old son with her. And their neighbor’s child was left alone
in the room while the mom went–the two women went off to get some health care consultation. And he was–he’d never been in the house before. He was looking around trying to see how they
live differently than, than he did. And he immediately was attracted to this poster. The bright color, the strong graphic, and
then he goes over to it, and he was short, and the poster was up high, and I watched
him mouthing the words, in constructing the new country, we are becoming the new woman. And this is, uh, Nicaragua Womens Association. And I watched him trying to figure out what
the poster meant. And I, I assume–I don’t even–I doubt that
he figured out what it meant. It’s a pretty sophisticated concept for a
eight or nine year old. But that wasn’t the point. The point for me was that was my epiphany
moment. That was the moment literally the light bulb
went off, that’s how posters work. You’re going about your daily life. You’re not making a special trip to a museum
to see, you know, a, a Picasso. You’re going about your daily life and there’s
this thing that attracts your attention by its bold color, its slogan, its graphic, and
it makes you stop, and makes you think, and makes you ask a question. And every time we ask a question, we’re, we’re
different. Questions change us because it kind of breaks
through the bubble that we always have, that, that we know what we need to know to get through
the day. The posters are able to break through that,
and make us see the world a little differently than we saw the world before the poster. When we started the center, it was still–political
posters were not considered art form. They were considered agitprop which is a,
which is a, a, you know, a pejorative. Um, political art–just the custom in political
art is also pejorative. There’s the fine arts, there’s the high arts,
and they never combined politics, which of course is, they don’t know their own history
because Guernica is one of the most extraordinary paintings. In fact, I think, Time magazine, um, called
the Guernica the most important piece of art of the 20th Century. And then, you certainly cannot call that not
political, that’s what made it. But, but for the most part, the museums don’t
show political art unless it’s by a Picasso or somebody who’s already famous for something
else. So, so political posters were not, only not
considered an art form, but they weren’t even, they were, they’re basically the stepchild
of the art world. And one of the things that the Center for
the Study of Political Graphics is trying to do, is get political posters taken seriously
as an art form. There was a big anti-Vietnam War demonstration
scheduled for June 23rd, 1967 at Century City. And the, uh–it was a very, you know, middle
class demonstration, a lot of, you know, Hollywood types, and, and people like Muhammad Ali were
speaking at the rally ahead of time. But the people who did organize it had a permit,
it was all legal demonstration, with all the publicity, and there was a really big turnout. It was the biggest demonstration LA had ever
seen at that point. And I remember we were–I was walking with
my sister, we were probably like in the first third of the, of the demonstration, so there
are people who still, you know, walking from Rancho Park, it was where it started. And then, there was a row–a very deep row,
so row across and row deep–rows deep of LAPD motorcycle cops, with a riot gear, and the
helmets, and the motorcycles. And somebody with a, uh, a mega horn or something,
said, “Okay. We’ve rescinded the permit. This is now an illegal demonstration. Turn around and go back.” Well, a, people didn’t wanna go back. B, people in the back couldn’t hear. And then, they–it was–I don’t remember. It could have been two minutes, it could have
been five minutes, it could have been ten minutes, it doesn’t really matter, because
they started en masse riding their motorcycles, right into the crowd, swinging the billy clubs
left and right. And it was just–by chance, there was a, a,
a woman in front of me who got hit when the billy club went that way, and there was a
woman over there that got hit when the billy club went that way. So, literally, I was in the triangle, um,
between–of the movement of the motorcycle, I just was in a triangle that was safe. And then, I was shocked that the police would
do that. I mean, we weren’t doing any–uh, we were
doing something. We weren’t doing anything illegal, we weren’t
doing anything violent, we were just–and it was–started out, it was legal, and I,
and I just couldn’t believe that they would do that. And prior to Century City, I really wasn’t
committed to demonstrations. I went to a couple safe–easy–not safe, but
easy ones. But after the Century City demonstration,
I was not gonna miss the demonstration. I don’t know if this posters gonna make a
difference, or that poster will stop the war, or, or that poster changed somebody’s life. I know a poster changed my life. And I know graphics changed Martin Luther
King’s life. I have specific examples of, of graphics and
images changing people’s lives. But if we didn’t try to make things better,
we know they’re gonna get worse faster. And so, I can’t guarantee you anything. I can’t–I can’t prove that this is gonna
make a difference, but I can guarantee, the people like the artist who made these posters,
and the organizations that were working around getting these posters made and distributed,
if they weren’t doing that work, this world will be a way lot–way worse shape a lot faster. So, I’d rather take–I’d rather err on the
side of trying to make things better, leaving the world a better place than I found it,
than a, you know say, just go off and go to the beach. Ernie Marquez lives in West Hills. Uh, you would not know from the exterior of
his home that anything very different, uh, is going on from the homes around it. Although, of course, that makes you wonder
what’s going on in the homes around it, because Ernie Marquez is a descendant of the earliest
families in Southern California. He bears the responsibility of all those generations
weighing down on him, and yet, at the same time, he’s got a sense of humor about himself. He is an impeccable collector. He preserves his archives very judiciously. Ernie is also in a way creating his own artifacts
with these glorious tile bejeweled tombstones that he’s placing on his previously unmarked
ancestors’ graves on the Marquez family land, which is, of course, no longer the Marquez
family land, which is a hillside in Pacific Palisades that you only get to because of
an easement, not so gleefully, uh, uh, uh, granted by his neighbors. You shake Ernie Marquez’s hand, and it’s as
if you’re shaking the hand of Junipero Serra. You’re shaking the hand of de Anza or Portola
because his ancestors were among those expeditions. (Instrumental music playing.) When I was growing up, I didn’t wanna be Mexican. I wanted to be like the other kids living
in Santa Monica canyon. There was a lot of prejudice in those days. Some, uh, mothers didn’t want their kids playing
with me. You feel this and, um, there’s nothing you
can do about it, you just live with it. When I grew up as an adult, I realized, um,
what an important background, um, I am. The reason why I, I started collecting was
to get information, documents, and papers, and photographs of my family. So, I just went to, um, the library, got history
books about Santa Monica and Los Angeles, couldn’t find anything about our rancho and,
um, the historians completely ignored our family, even our rancho for some reason. If there was some mention of it, there might
have been a paragraph or two, but that was about all. A hundred and seventy-five years ago, the
land was available to practically everybody that wanted it. They can ask for it, and they give it to them,
because Spain and Mexico wanted to occupy the land. The only way they could get the land was to
give it to them. My great grandpa was born in Guadalajara,
Mexico. He was 26 years old when he came to Los Angeles. In 1839, he was living as a neighbor to Ysidro
Reyes. So, they know each other because they were
neighbors. Ysidro’s uncle had the, uh, land grant Rancho
Boca De Santa Monica. They didn’t want it anymore. So, he asked my great grandfather if they
wanted it, and they said, yes, so he gave it to them. And then, they applied to the Mexican Government
for the title to the land grant. And in order to get that, you had to be a,
a Mexican citizen. You have to be a person of good character,
you have had to embrace the catholic faith, you had to grow, uh, fruit trees on the land,
and, uh, you had to have 200 head of cattle. (Instrumental music playing.) So, you didn’t buy it in those days. Francisco built his adobe house in Santa Monica
Canyon on the upper bain and Ysidro Reyes built his house on, um, Huntington Palisades
near Sunset Boulevard. And when United States took over and the land
was partitioned among all the heirs of Francisco Marquez and each one knew what portion of
land, uh, was theirs. They had to pay taxes on them. When you had large parcels of land, that was
a lot of money. And my ancestors weren’t working, they didn’t
have a job, they didn’t have an income. So, the taxes were a liability. So, what was easiest, get rid of the land
unit, so, you know, not to pay the tax. (Instrumental music playing.) I, I originally started looking for photos
of the rancho prairie because I was writing the history of my, of the rancho, and, uh,
my family, and I wanted pictures of it, and discovered that there wasn’t, there wasn’t
any. But along the way, all these other images
of Los Angeles, or Santa Monica, Redondo Beach. (Instrumental music playing.) (Ernie enters a room.) You see something and you know you don’t have
it and you want it. And you get it by any means, you know, but,
um, I had to buy things without telling my wife I spent the money. I would bring the item home, bought it on
impulse and take it out to my room in the garage, and put it away. We were struggling. We didn’t have a lot of money, but I was spending
it on stuff that made me happy, but it had nothing to do with the family. And when, um, I aged, it was clear to me that
I had to do something. I didn’t wanna die and leave this collection. So, I decided, I’d call the Huntington and
asked Jenny Watts if she was interested and she said, “Of course.” And, um, she came over and looked at it and
they decided they would, they would take it and I was delighted because I couldn’t think
of any place else I’d rather have the, the collection. (Instrumental music playing.) As I read the books published about the land
grants, they were all written by history professors. And I realized after reading those books,
that there wasn’t a family that retained a land, um, as long as ours did. (Instrumental music playing.) There’s two, two parcels still remaining of
the rancho. One is my cousin, she lives on the land Rancho
Boca De Santa Monica. And I own our family cemetery in Santa Monica
Canyon. That’s still in the family and, uh, it’ll
probably remain so forever, you know. (Ernie walking towards the gate of their family
cemetery.) There’s a photograph taken of our cemetery
in 1908, uh, showing what it looked like in those days. And you could still see a part of the ruins
of the original adobe house here. And the big cross is my grandmother whose
buried here, Micaela Reyes and, um, Seventh Street Hill is coming down, but it was all
empty land. There were no houses or anything here when
the cemetery was established. It was built or established right next door
to the house that we’re living in. (Instrumental music playing.) We believe there’s about 34 people buried
here. We determine that by scientist from the Cotsen
Institute at UCLA came out with a radar ground penetration. And these little flags, uh, that you see in
the ground here are from, uh, forensic dogs who came and could sniff the ground and they
could determine whether there’s human remains still in the ground. So, that’s, that’s how we got the estimate. We know the names of the persons that died,
but we don’t know where they’re buried. I plan to mark the graves with crosses that
I’m making myself out of materials that I think you would’ve find in the Rancho back
in those days made out of rocks and branches of trees, uh, anything that would resemble
or you, you could think of the rancho by looking at the crosses. I’ve been working on these crosses, uh, for
about two, three years. And, um, I’m, I’m slowly achieving what I
wanna do. I should have them all finished by the, by
this year some time. (Instrumental music playing.) My family deserve, um, to be recognized as
an original family in Santa Monica Canyon. They deserve to be recognized as the original
family that came to California in 1769. We, we’re not newcomers to California. We were among the founders of California. And I want, I think they, they deserved to
be recognized and remembered for that. Next up, we’re going to spend a little time
with Kent Kirkton and Keith Rice at the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center at Cal State Northridge. Um, Kent Kirkton started a collection without–as
so often happens quite meaning to, um, of African-American photography in Southern California. African-American photography in Southern California,
especially journalistic photography gives a different angle on the known history or
the history we think we know. Los Angeles Times has never been completely
oblivious to African-American history. At times, they’ve even been rather attentive
to it, but attentive to it at specific times. If there is a shooting in South Central Los
Angeles, the Los Angeles Times is right on the scene with photographs of, you know, the
aftermath of the god awful event. For the Los Angeles Sentinel, the California
Eagle, these were African-American papers, based in these neighborhoods. And so, they’re not just covering crime, although
they didn’t ignore it, they’re covering birthday parties and political rallies, and the most
natural mundane aspects of African-American lives as they were lived in Southern California
which the LA Times God love it was fairly oblivious to. You see, Los Angeles treated as a small town
because in effect–these were small town newspapers. They were smaller in some cases than they
wanna be–wanted to be because restrictive covenants kept them from getting any bigger. So, it is a fascinating, sort of, documentary
history of a Los Angeles that you would never see reading more mainstream papers. (Instrumental music playing.) You know, we talked about the important historical
events that newspaper photographers covered. And it’s important for the people, the city
to be able to recover their own history. And there really isn’t much of a place to
do this. When you bring these stuff together in a collection,
in an archive, then we can begin to see what great work they’ve done, what great documentation
for the community they’ve done, and how important it is. (Instrumental music playing.) (Kent entering the Sagebrush Hall.) We’re, uh, primarily an archives which would
focus on the ethnic communities in the Los Angeles region. The collection came to be–it’s one of those
long serendipitous stories, but as a faculty member, I was interested in the alternative
press. And I was interested in whether the alternative
press was using photography differently than the mainstream press. And I was working on an academic–writing
an academic paper. And I was looking for some images from black
LA to go with the paper. And I couldn’t find any. And, uh, I didn’t know all of the archives
in town and I didn’t know all the libraries and stuff, but nonetheless, when, when I was
searching, I couldn’t find anything. And I thought, hmm, it’s, it’s amazing to
the extent to which the ethnic communities in this city are undocumented in the institutional
holdings. The mainstream newspapers hold their own archives
in, in the morgue, right? They’ve got it all. So, there was no sense in trying to get into
that area of collecting because they’re not gonna let go of that. But the photographers working on alternative
newspapers were all freelancers and they owned all their own stuff. So, once I figured that out, met the first
couple of black photographers that I met, things really begin to take off then. (Instrumental music playing.) We now hold over a million photographic images. About 850,000 of them are produced by African-American
photographers. Most of the black photographers whose work
we have collected were not schooled. They didn’t really think of themselves as
photographers in the way contemporary photographers do. And so, for instance, Harry Adams who was
a barber, started making photographs, and somebody said, “Hey, Mikey, can I have some
copies of those, this, that and the other thing?” And he started practicing a little bit and
selling a few photographs. And his barbershop was next door to the Los
Angeles Sentinel. And Los Angeles Sentinel was one of two major
papers in the black community at the time, the other being the California Eagle. And Harry went to work for them as best we
can tell his earliest photographs are around 1958. Harry was shooting 4x5s with a speed graphic,
right? The sheet of film was expensive. He got paid for the print–by the print that
he turned in to the newspaper. And it didn’t occur to him to come back and,
oh, let’s go down Central Avenue and make some shots just for the fun of it, just to,
because I like it, you know. He didn’t have a roll of film in his camera. He had one or two sheets. He went out and shot the job, came back, turned
it in, and got paid. It was his job. And he approached it, uh, like any working
guy would approach his job. And he put down his camera at the end of the
day and said, “Phew, I’m going home.” (Instrumental music playing.) I, I love LA history. You know, it’s fascinating history. It’s not credited or given the credit it’s
due as far as African-Americans are concerned, you know, and civil rights and everything,
and I find it really interesting. We always look at that as a southern thing,
you know, people came to LA, oh, there was no discrimination in LA. Hello, everybody was happy and everybody get
along. I just did an oral history with, um, interview
with Mrs. Nola Carter who is a mother of Alprentice Bunchy Carter who was, uh, who started the
Black Panther Party here in Los Angeles who was killed at UCLA. She’s 96 years old and she was telling me,
she–when she left Shreveport, Louisiana, she knew what discrimination was. Even though she really didn’t encounter a
lot of discrimination. She went to an all-black school, she shopped
in white stores, black stores, but you knew, when you got on the street cars, it said,
white, it said, black. What she told me when she got to LA, there
were no signs. But when you got on a bus or a trolley and
you sat in a car, or in a, in a seat, a white person would get up, and stand, and hold on,
and that’s how discrimination was played out here. So, I say that to say that, you know, LA wasn’t
what people thought it was totally. And people also didn’t recognize that actors
and everybody, they helped support the civil rights movement. There’s a lot of money in Los Angeles. So, they would come, Dr. King would see, Mikey,
from these photographs, it seemed like he was here every other month, raising money
to support while he was, his work in the south. In 1963, Dr. King came to speak in Los Angeles,
who was here for the weekend. And, you know, Ralph Abernathy was there and
Sammy Davis Jr. and, you know, uh, um, a whole list of, of Hollywood notables that were supportive
of the civil rights movement. And the story that I’ve heard many times is
they’d collected so much money for the SCLC that day that they took big plastic garbage
cans up into the stands and filled them with folding money which they then carried down
and had take-off and count all the ones and, and fives and what, but they had garbage cans
full of money that they collected for them that day. And it was–it was a high point in, in the,
in the community as part of the civil rights movement. And we have photographs from more than one
of the photographers that covered that event. And then, you can see that it’s very–it’s
a celebratory event. The Los Angeles Times were there–was there. And at one point, some guy wanted to say something
or what, I don’t know. Anyhow, he tried to take the microphone, tried
to go up on, uh, the stand and take the micro–control the microphone. And a couple of policemen grabbed him and
took him away. That was the photograph that the Los Angeles
Times used, right? As if some kind of violence had occurred at
this event. (Instrumental music playing.) The work of these photographers differs from
mainstream photographers in a couple of ways. First, is in the subjects they select. And secondly, is in their sense of who they’re
photographing and their, their membership in the community leads them to have a different
perspective on the people they’re photographing than the big Metropolitan paper that drops
into the neighborhood occasionally usually to cover some crime or some other circumstances. We participated in the Pacific Standard Time
project that the Getty organized. And the title of our show was–for that was
identity and affirmation. We chose that to reflect what was going on
in the black community during this post war period. With this, it was a time when the black community
was a bit more affluent. It was a little stratified certainly at the
top and they were affluent and the photographs reflect it. At the time, there were a lot of activities
that were meant to demonstrate they deserved full citizenship in the country, that they
were doing things equally, uh, as the mainstream was doing and they were reaffirming. They were affirming their own progress and
status. (Kirk is putting a box on the table.) This, this work is rewarding to me because
I don’t think–I don’t think African-Americans–I don’t think we even value this information. I don’t think we value history as much as
we should. But because a lot of young people have no
idea of why they can do the things they can do knowing that anything that black people
do now is because somebody before them did the work. (Instrumental music playing.) The Institute for Arts and Media here at California
State University has recently partnered with the Tom & Ethel Bradley Foundation. And we have created the Tom & Ethel Bradley
Center here on campus. Because of our mutual interest, we are broadening
our collecting policy. So, really, we want to expand our areas now
into a broader effort to tell the stories of the ethnic communities in Los Angeles. So, our goal here is to make this a major
and national research center where we’ll have scholars coming from wherever. If they’re interested in Los Angeles or various
ethnic communities in Los Angeles, they’ll know–it’ll soon be clear that this is a place
for them to do their research. Jim Kepner was obsessed with two things. He was, uh, a resident in Southern California
in the mid-20th century and he loved Science fiction. But of course, a lot of us love Science fiction. He loved Science fiction as only a magpie
can. He kept magazines that were not even intended
by their editors to be anything more than completely disposable. He hung on to these things. Jim Kepner was also gay, uh, at a time when
that was not an easy thing to be. Um, and so, he began collecting alongside
the science fiction collection materials pertaining to gay history in Southern California, all
LGBT, um, history in Southern California. Gay memorabilia because its collectors had
to be so furtive to preserve their freedom. You almost never find clean copies of any
of this. So, apart from their historical value, it’s
remarkable that these are pristine. He has kept these in absolutely impeccable
shape. And so, when he died, he is so lucky posthumously
that a man like Joseph Hawkins became a custodian of these two collections. Joseph Hawkins thought he was coming aboard
to look after a collection of LGBT history. And if that were all that he catalogued, and
preserved, and creates exhibitions around, we would be duly grateful to him. But of course, he also inherited the Science
fiction collection of Jim Kepner. And to his everlasting credit, he didn’t just
say, “Oh, this we don’t need. We’re gonna concentrate on that.” No. He catalogued both of them so lovingly that
he started to notice that there was strange crossover. Science fiction fandom in Southern California
in the 20th century was, in addition to its love for that form in its own right, also
a way for LGBT people to meet under a stigmatized, but at least, not illegal cover. And so, it’s a remarkable window onto two
differently, but also similarly marginalized subcultures in Southern California which had–a
cross-pollination nobody had ever dreamt of before. (Instrumental music playing.) The collection began with a guy named Jim
Kepner actually back in the 1950s. He was a, uh, pack rat extraordinaire. He collected everything he get his hands on. He read, uh, five to six newspapers a day,
took clippings out anything that had to do with the LGBT, a few of the things he was
interested in. Um, and at some point, what happened was he,
uh, began to develop an interest in Science fiction. And, uh, the collection that this is focusing
on is in fact a, um, collection that grew out of his fascination with Science fiction
and the Science fiction. His Science fiction materials and the homophile
materials were two separate interests of Kepner. And so, therefore, were collected separately
as well but by Kepner. So, that’s how they’re united. In the initial phases, I also think that there
was a kind of, um, crossover whereby, if you were in the Sci-fi world, you were ostracized
and considered strange in the same way that you were considered strange if you were a
part of the homophile movement. He began by joining a number of different
fan groups. Um, and the fan groups were personned by a
number of different people who used, um, AKAs or also known as names which would become
a practice that, uh, was then extended on into the homophile movement which was developed
in the 1950s. (Instrumental music playing.) This is one of my favorite things in this
collection. This is a, um, an–uh, published on the occasion
of the 1500th meeting, May 12th, 1966. This is a look back at the Science fiction
and the fantasy society and it includes images from all the people who are a part of the,
um, group. So, it becomes this really integral group
that, um, I think that if you look back at the literature, you find that Kepner is not
the only person who’s participating in the group and that they are using it as a way
to, um, explore the possibility of how sexuality might be different in the future and that
there might be a possible world for them to live in in which their sexuality is in fact
accepted and a part of everyday life. (Instrumental music playing.) Los Angeles seems to be a center of early
Sci-fi and homophile development. There seems to also be a kind of image where
this was a place where folks could reinvent themselves. People could be something that they weren’t
under the scrutiny of the old world which was east coast based. Um, so, you could actually come to the new
frontier which was California and reinvent yourself. So, I think a lot of things did start here. But the Sci-fi fan groups were in Philadelphia,
Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. And they actually had correspondence, they
had meeting notes, and all of those are contained in Kepner’s collection because he was a member
of the boards of many of those institutions. There was also correspondence with people
in England and other, uh, countries. So, it was not only national but international
in scope and–but it was a very small, very homespun, kind of, feel compared to what it
is today. (Instrumental music playing.) So, I think that there was a mutual sort of
admiration society that developed around it. And I’m certainly not trying to say that all
of these groups had huge homosexual overtones. What I am trying to say is that certainly,
homosexuals, as a group of people where disproportionally it seems to me, interested in these groups
because of their ability to create cover for meetings. Kepner always knew–Kepner was, uh, one of
those people who lived his life well beyond the period that he lived in. He and his imagination was able to envision
a world where homosexuality would–I mean, he thought about gay people marrying way back
in the 1950s. He was always talking about that. I mean, I think that’s why partly his attraction
to Science fiction was so strong in him because he could actually look back on his life and
think about what possibilities could be. And that’s why Science fiction was so attractive
to him because it was a way to imagine a future that he could be free and he could live his
life the way he wanted to live his life. And that just wasn’t possible in his time. (Instrumental music playing.) What I’m really hoping for is that a new generation
of young people will come and do research on this material and find out what I haven’t
found out. I mean, this organization and this collection
is fantastic in a sense that, um, every day, there’s more possibility for finding out something
that has been erased from the past. And in this particular case, I had no idea,
when I came upon these materials that there was any connection whatsoever between homosexuality
and the Sci-fi movement. (Instrumental music playing.) I think the evidence is clear that there’s
a, a really deep connection. And I think that it would be really great
if researchers came and found out more about how that exchange has gone over time. (Instrumental music playing.) The ribbon is cut. Now, cameras are gone. The news are all one. The party goes on. Done, it’s been said. And up goes the flag. An ox has been killed. In display the head. Then he came to me. Born with a heart. He poured me the one. Fixed me up straight. Son, he said, I knew you would. Hell can only…

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