In the summer of 1971, Michael Lesy and a friend found most of the snapshots in Snapshots 1971–77 in a dumpster behind a gigantic photo-processing plant in San Francisco. The photos were in the trash because the machines that printed them made them so fast—duplicates, triplicates, quadruplicates—that the people on the processing line couldn’t stop them.
Lesy took home thousands of the discards from the dumpster. By the end of the summer, he’d formed his own collection of images of American life.
Publisher: Blast Books
Photo Credit: © Michael Lesy by courtesy of Blast Books
By The Way
The Clean – Anything Could Happen | Directed by Andrew Shaw – 1981 | Released on Flying Nun Records. (Link)
“What can be said about The Clean? In 1978, they were the seeds of New Zealand punk and the reason for the founding of Flying Nun, one of the greatest record labels that ever existed. They carved out a big sandbox for everyone to play in, and their influence resonated not only in New Zealand but around the world.” Brian Turner, New York
While Lesy looked through other people’s lives in pictures, the world was coming apart at the seams. The Vietnam War, the murderous rampage of the Manson Family, and the Attica State Prison uprising filled news headlines—and the general public carried on their lives, with hope and abandon and everything in between: chaos, cruelty, familial bonds and breaks, lawlessness, unwitting humor.
Lesy’s collection of snapshots from the 1970s is a time capsule of things familiar and alien. Now, fifty years later, everything and nothing about our lives has changed.
Book Specs: Snapshots 1971–77 by Michael Lesy published by Blast Books (2021) | Hardcover | 7.25 × 9.25 inches | 232 pages | 196 four-color photographs | ISBN: 978-0-922233-50-2. Available here.
Michael Lesy, PhD, is the author of more than a dozen books of history, biography, and narrative nonfiction, and of numerous critical essays about the use of archival photographs as historical documents.
His first book, Wisconsin Death Trip, is a 1973 non-fiction book based on a collection of late 19th century photographs by photographer Charles Van Schaick – mostly taken in the city of Black River Falls ( Jackson County, Wisconsin). It emphasizes the harsh aspects of Midwestern rural life under the pressures of crime, disease, mental illness, and urbanization.
He is an Emeritus Professor of Literary Journalism at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA.