An acclaimed American photographer and photojournalist, Steve Schapiro captured some of the most important developments in history, including the Haight-Ashbury hippie scene in San Francisco in the 1960s. Taking a compassionate and activist approach to photography, he captured the characters and events that defined the era. Decades later, Schapiro has revisited the American hippie counterculture, finding it alive and well. With his book Bliss: Transformational Festivals & the Neo Hippie (also referred to as Bliss: An Exploration of the Current Hippie Counterculture & Transformational Festivals), he provided a unique insight into a new free-spirit movement within America.
At the age of 80, the acclaimed photojournalist began following his son on his journey for enlightenment at “transformational festivals” held throughout the country, from music festivals in Oregon and peace gatherings in Michigan to sacred celebrations in California and weekend and weeklong happenings in Lincoln Park and the Black Rock Desert. There he discovered a new contemporary hippie life that he described as “Bliss Ninnies.” However, as opposed to the psychedelic pursuits of their 1960s predecessors, he realized this new counterculture has more to do with meditation, yoga, fellowship, good vibes, communal celebration and a search for the divine. And for most of the people involved, this was a way of life.
Created between 2012 and 2014, Schapiro’s images capture Bliss Ninnies in their natural habitat as they commune with nature, other like-minded souls and with all that is divine and inspirational in the wide, multi-hued spectrum of human spirituality. They show ecstatic people, deliriously smiling, that could get into a state of real bliss really just from meditation and dancing. As a 79-year-old peace activist Wavy Gravy suggests in the book’s afterward, you may “take these photos in and turn them into your life,” since, after all, “we are all the same person trying to shake hands with ourself.”
A signed copy of Bliss: Transformational Festivals & the Neo Hippie can be purchased from powerHouse Books for $60.