Memories and Notes Towards a Bio

Collage image of Carter Tomassi

By the summer of 1968 the world had pretty much turned upside down. Not that I was very much aware of the world, but what I did see was more than enough for me.

The feeling was occurring to a lot of people. Some of us turned to the underground press for ideas, information and to feel “unalone”, as novelist David Wallace Foster has described the feeling great literature gave him.

No one confused The Great Speckled Bird, Atlanta's underground paper, with great literature. However, it did have a wide readership in a region where what people feared most was change. And they saw us as change. There were lots of disagreements and sometimes outright violence against individuals who wanted / who needed / who had to be different.

Imagine living in an isolated community, far outside of Atlanta, where everyone dressed, looked and thought the same … except for you. The Bird would have been a spiritual life-preserver. Through its words and photos it said “you are not alone.” Three of us (Tom Coffin, Bill Fibben, and I) took a lot of the photos that appeared in the paper, and I hope our shots gave those readers comfort.

There was never any pay for our work, as I remember. My first year I survived by selling The Bird on a Peachtee street corner three nights a week and making $25 that lasted until the next issue came out. Buying outdated film and materials when I could.

By the time I stopped shooting in '73 I had over ten thousand images. Those photos were forgotten until 1993 when I started posting them on the web and getting a good response. They get between 15,000 to a quarter of a million hits - every month!
1982: NY artists from Georgia: photo
After '73 my interests shifted to what I thought of as more of a high-art photography. I co-directed a survey of regional photography called The Southern Ethic, a traveling exhibit and book. My photos were awarded an NEA fellowship in '77 which allowed for some travel in Europe and ended with a move to NY.

My interest in pursuing art photography in NY got side-tracked when I started using an early computer-controlled camera to shoot graphics for TV. By the time I left, NY had given me a good education in art and music as well as a new career in film.
Photo of Colossal Pictures directors and me.
Moving to San Francisco in the mid-80s I got involved with an incredible group of animators and film people. For fifteen years we created amazingly original animation and effects for features, commercials and the stage. We thought of ourselves as a big dysfunctional family but looking back from this vantage point everyone now agrees those were grand years.

I'm living in Berkeley now, retired mostly. The photos here still get a lot of response and emails, as well as publishing and broadcasting inquiries. Recently someone from New Jersey wrote to say “I didn't know any of the people in the pictures, but I knew everyone in the pictures. Thanks for the little trip back to a better time.” That's why these photo essays are here.