In the spring of 1979, I learned about the “Rainbow Gathering,” a large, counter-culture celebration held each year in a different location in the United States. That summer, hippies from around the country would be assembling in Alpine, Arizona, just across the New Mexico border, a half-day’s drive from the New Mexico village where I lived.
Within a few miles of my home village, there were several communes, “Tree Frog,” and “Hog Farm” among them. Many of these commune residents, were, like me, Anglos from middle-class homes in the eastern part of the country. Though we had much in common, I hadn’t photographed them. When I arrived in New Mexico in 1972, there was considerable tension between Hispanic villagers and these Anglo newcomers. In 1979, those tensions remained. Some villagers were uneasy about their land being purchased to establish communes and other settlements that now dotted the mountain valleys. The strain was also about culture, about the ways in which these Anglos tended to flaunt their differences not only from conventional middle-class America, but also from the centuries-old traditions that defined the villages nearby.
I had come to northern New Mexico to live and photograph Hispanic villages and was immersed in that life. Though fascinated by and in many ways drawn to the freedom of the hippie lifestyle, like many of my Hispanic neighbors, I kept my distance. In fact, making pictures at The Rainbow Gathering gave me a chance to keep my distance, to photograph hippies away from the villages where I was spending time.
I photographed The Rainbow Gathering over a ten-day period in July of 1979. At the time, I thought of these Arizona pictures as something isolated, separate from my real work in New Mexico. But over time, I’ve come to realize that these pictures provide context for my other work. By placing these Rainbow Gathering pictures on this website next to my photographs of Hispanic northern New Mexico, I’ve tried at lest to hint at the hippie world that existed side by side with Hispanic village life at the time. I’ve tried to place my New Mexico photographs in a more authentic light.