“What six of them saw” is a project from 1971 produced by the International fund for Concerned Photography and was funded by ‘modest grants’ and the financial support of the PR Company Ruder and Finn (David Finn was closely connected to the Fund and he was on the original board of the ICP in 1974). The original objective of the project was for the young photographers [Cary Wolinsky, David Coleman, Lucinda Fleeson, Chester Higgins, Jr , Robert J. Burroughs, Arthur Sirdofsky and Mark Strimbu] to work on something that they were “into”, some facet of life to investigate during their summer holidays. For these six “young American photographers of varied cultural, geographic and racial backgrounds” this was a great summer of photographic exploration.
The projects created by the “What six of them saw” group are filled with such enthusiasm and energy it is almost contagious. In the end the project was expanded to include twenty photographers. What these amazing young photographers chose to share with us about their summers was really remarkable. For me, to find these projects, which have been patiently sitting in boxes, in Cornell Capa’s Papers, for over 40 years, was truly wonderful.
What was it that made these projects so important, interesting and unique? The age of the participants ranges from 13 to 25; they came from as distant points as Marblehead, Massachusetts to San Diego, California. Their subjects range from “Conservation and Pollution”, “the Black Child”, “Summer Camp for Spastic Children”, “A Community Project with Apache Indians”, “A Hitch-Hiking nomad’s Impression of his Native Land”, “A Peurto Rican’s Search for His Own Identity”, “A Look at the Lives of a Commune’s Children” and “A Girl-Photographer’s Glorious Summer”, soaking up everything, living and working fully and creatively. These are projects that provide such deep insight into the time in which they were created and simultaneously they highlight the beautiful timelessness and energy of youth.
These young person’s back in time had such great awareness and concern for the world around them and for the people that they shared the world with. Their cameras explored and examined subject and material with clinical keenness. They are filled with the optimism and beauty of youth.
Long ago this was their summer. This was their 1971.
While the project is incomplete (the archive presently does not include the work of each of the twenty photographers, nor their essays and correspondences with Cornell Capa) as it stands the project is outstanding, and a gift to come across. Nothing is ever really a complete totality in the world of archives. What we get to see all these years later is a little snapshot of a slice of time, perfectly capturing idiosyncrasies, unique impulses, and the creative space made possible by the International Fund for Concerned Photography.
Over the next few days I will be sharing some of the images from respective summer projects of some of the participating photographers. Included in this post are photographs by Cary Wolinsky.
The photographer Cary Wolinsky at the time was a recent graduate of the photojournalism program at Boston University. Cary had made a proposal to carry out two projects: One on the atmosphere and the people to be found along route one, and another project on old carnivals. In the end Cary left America altogether and he spent his summer in Ireland with Tinkers* Cary’s summer with Irish travelers in 1971 produced a truly profound body of work. The work includes both incredible black and white images and some beautiful kodachrome slides.
* Tinkers or Irish travelers – aka, Pavee, Minceir or in Irish Lucht Siúil, meaning literally “the walking people” they are technically not Romanies (gypsies) but there are connections between these two distinct ethnic groups.