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Rainbow Gathering: Portraits and Still lifes

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I went to the Rainbow Gathering this year, July 1st through 7th, and concentrated on portraits because these people, in my opinion, are amongst the most important in society.

Portraits | Still-lifes | Weddings

Naturally, if you know my photography (can bee seen at, I attempted to appreciate Nature with still-lifes. But I also did my first two weddings--perhaps I am finally on the way to commercial photography!

About the Gathering: It was founded in the mid-70s by soldiers returning from Vietnam and their families to create a therapeutic environment for healing from the traumatic stress they suffered from that exceedingly damaging war.
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The family, as all Rainbows are called, meets every year in a national forest, and each to arrive is greeted with a loud "welcome home!"

The biggest gatherings were in the 1980s, numbering 15-20 thousand. Today the gatherings are smaller, but not much smaller, averaging about 10 thousand.
The consistently strong numbers of campers at the Rainbow Gatherings have significant implications: hippie culture is alive and well in the United States after all these years, and hippies have been reproducing!
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Faerie eating breakfast
(Image by John Bessa)
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Breakfast at the Faerie Kamp

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Another group joined "the gathering" early on: the San Francisco "Faeries." The Faeries had their own gathering society that pre-dated the Rainbow Gathers, and they brought experience with them that included urban sophistication and advanced adaptations of hygiene. The Fairy Camp is alive and well this year, and was called the "Faerie Kamp."

Blessings from the Mud Faeries

They took you under their arms and granted you a wish by softly humming into your shakras.

Rainbows young and old -- the Grand Mame here is over 90. I remember her from gatherings twenty-five years ago; she passed as a teenager back then! Two Faeires hug in the background.

Just as in the early days during the protest period of Vietnam, there can be tremendous pressure from the US Forest Service and other enforcers, but this gathering was significant for its harmony with federal authority. There is a "resident" ranger group, affectionately called the Six-Ups, who attempt to bond with the various camps. Another federal group is not so friendly: the LEOs, or Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers. These are well-armed, and go looking for pot smokers, as if marijuana is the enemy. This year they sported paint ball guns, and I could not imagine what they had in mind.

Her hubby and a newly-wed at the Faerie Kamp; the elder couple is from Woodstock, and they were at the Woodstock Concert

Mackenzie sings sensitive songs about here experiences as a Dead Head:I Have Wings

Dobro with a tin can resonator and half of a big plastic bottle to amplify

Mitch memorialized the gathering on his denim jacket.

Shanta-sea, or safety. Now sporting sophisticated walkie-talkies, Shanta-sea coordinate with authorities, which is something new, yet they carefully preserve the tribal anarchy that is Rainbow law.

Chopping and chatting at the Woodstock Nation camp at sunset.

Hippie photographers

All old-school equipment

Man laying on ground feeling pretty good about himself! He was not shy at all.

My better half, Eve, after a dip in the cold Queen Stream.


Rock sculptures in the Queen

Waterbug and fern

Deep red water of the Queen

Shiny mushroom

Men contemplating the reflection of the Sun on the Queen Stream



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I am a worker, photographer, and writer. I am now working on a counseling masters degree focusing on youth and community, neurology and medication, and underlying genetics. My photography is my greatest accomplishment. The style is the art of (more...)

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