Hells Angels in Albany? Fine. Burning Man? Not so fast. When photographer Jim Hair approached the Albany Arts Committee to put up a mini-retrospective of his work in the quiet, family-oriented town's community center, he decided against displaying his blazingly colorful work from Burning Man, where people doff their duds in the desert. "This is being shown in a library," chuckles Hair, "so I didn't include any of the Burning Man shots."
Hair has led a roving life, hitchhiking all over North America, shooting cave paintings in Baja California, sailing to the Galapagos in the footsteps of Morgan the Pirate, working for alternative weeklies in San Diego and La Jolla, and shooting parades and major events from San Francisco to Wales to Australia as a commercial photographer. For this show, the Berkeley-based shooter reached back to a series of twelve black-and-white images of the Hells Angels San Diego chapter, circa 1975. "I hung out with the Angels for a couple of years," recalls Hair. "I have photos of a couple of their funerals in the show. I did a whole series of individual Angels posed against a garage wall. I was following Richard Avedon. I wanted to communicate reality."
In the late '80s Hair discovered Fuji color film, and his documentary impulse turned to photos of children, the famous Brown twins of San Francisco (a 30"x 30" image of them is in the show), and huge color blowups. "I use a Hasselblad camera, a studio camera, in the street because it gives me more information," explains Hair. "I do visual anthropology, documenting what happens every day." In the end, Hair chose to print some of his Burning Man images on a four-inch-wide strip running underneath the photos, for their human-interest value. "People come to this community center for reasons other than the gallery. I wanted them to see themselves and their kids in the photos."
"Before and After, Photographs by Jim Hair" runs through September 19 at the Albany Community Center Library Gallery, 1249 Marin Ave., Albany. 510-524-9283.
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