Noted photographer and filmmaker Christopher Felver has maintained a friendship with Ferlinghetti for over 30 years. His film includes footage from poetry readings, travels abroad and interviews with Ferlinghetti, as well as commentary from Ginsberg, Dennis Hopper, Dave Eggers, Billy Collins, Michael McClure and others.
One of the most powerful moments in Christopher Felver’s portrait of Lawrence Ferlinghetti takes place during World War II, when the young Navy serviceman found himself walking through the ruins of Nagasaki, less than two months after the atomic blast. “It made me an instant pacifist,” he says simply. The realization that his own country was capable of such an act, coupled with exposure to radical San Francisco poet Kenneth Rexroth, helped Ferlinghetti forge his path from disillusioned G.I. to philosophical anarchist, bookstore owner and publisher under the famed City Lights moniker (poet Billy Collins compares City Lights’ impact to “rolling a grenade into a library”) free-speech icon and, eventually, the world’s most-read poet. Felver’s long friendship with Ferlinghetti yields some rare interviews with his subject, supplemented by an impressive set of testimonials from, among others, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Anne Waldman, Dennis Hopper, Amiri Baraka, Dave Eggers and Jack Hirschman. Deftly interspersing these voices with archival photos, video and audio, Felver vividly reveals a true American literary legend, turning 90 this year and still writing, painting, publishing and speaking out. At the dawn
of the age of television, despite the complacent mood of the nation, a generation of American youth actually became excited about literature as a means of pushing the culture forward. That powerful contradiction, and the vibrant literary community that continues in San Francisco today, is a direct result of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
BELOW IS SOME CHRIS FELVER PORTRAIT WORK
The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., New York Public Library, and the Museum of Fine Art in Boston have presented retrospectives of his films: Cecil Taylor: All the Notes (2005), Donald Judd’s Marfa Texas (1998), The Coney Island of Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1996), Tony Cragg: In Celebration of Sculpture (1993), John Cage Talks About Cows (1991), Taken by the Romans (1990), West Coast: “Beat & Beyond” (1984), and California Clay in the Rockies (1983).
Christopher Felver’s books are Beat (Last Gasp, 2007) an intimate memoir of image, text, and reminiscence; The Late Great Allen Ginsberg (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2002); The Importance of Being (Arena Editions, 2001), 400 portraits of eminent figures in American arts, letters, music, and politics; Ferlinghetti Portrait (Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1998); Angels, Anarchists & Gods (Louisiana State University Press, 1996), featuring the American avant-garde; The Poet Exposed (Alfred Van der Marck Editions, 1986), a monograph of contemporary American poets; and Seven Days in Nicaragua Libre (City Lights Books, 1984), co-authored with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, based on a week together in Nicaragua with Minister of Culture Ernesto Cardenal.
His work is collected by numerous libraries and museums, including Stanford University Special Collections; Bancroft Library at University of California, Berkeley; The New York Public Library; Donnell Media Center; San Francisco Public Library; University of California Santa Cruz, Special Collections; University of Buffalo, Poetry/ Rare Books Collection; University of North Carolina Special Collections; San Diego State University; University of Delaware Special Collections; UCLA Special Collections; and University of New Mexico Special Collections, among others.
Christopher Felver appears as a guest lecturer at universities and art centers. His photographs are represented and distributed worldwide by Corbis. In 1997, he received the Best Art Documentary Awards at the Cinema Arts Centre International Independent Film Festival, Huntington, New York. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Felver was a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome.