West and South.
Photographs by Charles Brittin. Edited by Kristine McKenna, Lorraine Wild, Roman Alonso, Lisa Eisner.
Hatje Cantz, 2011. 216 pp., 150 duotone illustrations, 9½x13".
Throughout the 1950s, Charles Brittin was the unofficial house photographer
for the Beat community that coalesced around the artistWallace
Berman. Brittin settled in Venice Beach, California, in 1951, and his beach
shack became a hangout for the Berman circle, which included actors Dean
Stockwell and Dennis Hopper, artist John Altoon, curator Walter Hopps and
poet David Meltzer, among many others. A self-taught photographer, Brittin
was working as a mailman at the time, and spent much of his free time
wandering the streets with a camera; he came to know Venice intimately,
and his pictures of the town are freighted with a hushed beauty and forlorn
sweetness. In the early 1960s the focus of Brittin’s life shifted dramatically
when he became involved with the civil rights movement. I suddenly
realized I was compelled to do something,” Brittin recalls, because the
times demanded it.” As a photographer for the Congress of Racial Equality,
Brittin documented the dramatic non-violent protests that occurred
throughout Southern California, and made a courageous trip to the deep
South, in 1965, to assist with the registration of black voters. As the 60s
progressed he documented the antiwar movement, and by the end of the
decade was devoting most of his time to the Black Panther Party. These two
very different social revolutions are at the heart of Charles Brittin: West and
South. With 150 images—138 of them previously unpublished—this monograph
is published on the occasion of a 2011 retrospective at Michael Kohn
Gallery in Los Angeles.
Read John Mathews's review of West and South in photo-eye Magazine.