The Free-Spirited, Occasionally Nude Unofficial Yearbook For CalArts, Class of '71-73 (Including David Hasselhoff)
Photographer Michael Jang was a CalArts student in the early '70s, who was using his camera to take #selfies and photos of #yolo-ing long before Instagram was conceived. The black and white images he's been posting on his Instagram account have formed into something of an unofficial yearbook, documenting the sometimes-wild (occasionally nude) times of Jang and his art school peers.
Jang attended CalArts from 1971-73, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts. "I was doing multi-media psychedelic lightshows for rock concerts in high school and got in with my interest in that, but [the school] didn't know quite where to put me," he said. "Eventually they placed me in the School of Design. I took photography one semester as an elective and have been doing it ever since."
Jang says the photos tell a better story about CalArts back then than he ever could, but describes the atmosphere as one of "total freedom." With young artists on the loose and away from home for the first time, Jang said it was a place where they discovered who they were.
"Nobody was watching you," he said. "There were no grades. It was pass/fail. It was as if the hard part—getting in—was over. Not attending class was probably the only way you could fail."
I commented that his subjects all seemed pretty happy.
"It's a time in your life when you aren't nine to fiving a regular job and just doing art in your spare time," he said. "You could go full throttle 24/7 for four straight years if you wanted. Maybe that's why they seem so happy."
When asked about his most memorable moments, he mentioned the connections that faculty had within the art world. There are photos of David Bowie and a young David Hasselhoff (class of '73) living it up, but Jang recalled several other notable figures that he encountered.
"I have memories of Count Basie and Buddy Rich playing in the main lobby, Allen Ginsberg reading poetry, even Carlos Castaneda came by. Ravi Shankar gave a concert the first week. Nam June Paik showed a video closeup of some guy jacking off and passed around the book 1984 for everyone to rip out random pages for reading homework. The photography department brought in Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand and access to them in a very informal small group situation was invaluable."
Jang hasn't been back to CalArts lately, but intends to drop by soon and see how things have changed. The projects he did for homework as a student are now a part of the permanent collection at the San Francisco Museum of Art. They include photos of his family and nightlife from the Beverly Hilton Hotel and the Palladium.
The photos from his CalArts days are available as a book from the publisher Hamburger Eyes. It is appropriately titled 'College,' and you can watch a trailer for the book below: