About Me

Credit: David Lance Goines

I've lived in Berkeley for over 20 years: I'm the girl in shabby black clothes who is always carrying a book. Hmm, that could describe half of Berkeley.

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Paul Herzoff: Photographer of a Nomadic Era

Paul Herzoff is a Berkeley/Emeryville photographer who is particularly well-known for documenting the nomadic lifestyle of the late 60s and early 70s. He is from a notable generation of photographers associated with U.C. Berkeley’s ASUC Art Studio that included Richard Misrach, Roger Minick, and Steve Fitch. I discovered Herzoff’s work at a Gallery Show at The Good Life Chiropractic in Berkeley.

bus1. How long have you lived in Berkeley?

49 years. Arrived in 1964 as Cal freshman. (Just in time for the 60s)

2. How long does it take you to produce a work of art? Was there anything you needed to accomplish first?

1/15th of a second. After 55 years of practice. I’m not sure that any of these are “works of art.” I’m a fellow who uses a camera to take photographs.

3. Do you interact with other artists in Berkeley?

I have a live/work studio in the Emeryville Artists’ Cooperative. I have artists for friends and neighbors and occasional clients. The relationships are mostly neighborly rather than artistic. Visual artists are of less influence on me since I started playing music as my main outlet.

4.How did the local community of artists or the cultural milieu in the Berkeley influenced your work?

In 1968 I wandered into the ASUC Studio (now called ASUC Art Studio) and spent a dozen years working there with a changing crew of photographers, mentors, and workers in other media. This group was serious about photography in ways that I never imagined, and was a major influence on my life and my work. My first documentary project started while I was walking to campus for work and classes. It was a study of a counterculture phenomenon of mostly young people living in handmade mobile homes and moving through our town. While doing that project I received grants from the NEA and the work eventually made its way to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

5. What other activities, events, or other cultural resources could support and encourage your work?

It’s a rich environment. I take my nourishment where I find it. Mostly unplanned and unexpected. I play a lot of acoustic music and interact with that community in new and interesting ways.

6. Do you feel that people in Berkeley need opportunities targeted to their niche interests to participate in culture, or should there be more opportunities that invite broad inclusion?

Yes.

7. Any other thoughts on how to build cultural communities in Berkeley?

Not really. Do the work. Meet people. See where it leads. It’s a rich environment, and opportunity seems to knock when you are ready to answer.

As for the unasked question of “what makes Berkeley so special,” I think every cultural community is special.  Berkeley is perhaps the ultimate college town, with a constant flow of brilliant and creative people and a history of being on the leading edge of social, political, and cultural change.  Yet, to me all humans are artists and every scene is a locus of creativity and creative energy.  The Berkeley scene is a part — important but hardly isolated — of an artistic milieu that extends past every local border.  My world includes Emeryville, Oakland, Piedmont, Richmond, Walnut Creek, San Ramon, Danville, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Pacifica, Marshall, and so forth.  Creativity moves around rather easily and no one locale is really the center anymore.

 

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