Photographer Larry Keenan was there to chronicle the transition from the “Beat Generation” to the “Hippie Generation” – taking pictures of artists,
musicians, and scene-makers like Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, Bob Dylan, Michael McClure, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey & the Merry Pranksters, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and more. Many of these photos are in the permanent collection of the Archives of American Artists in the
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
This interview took place by email sometime around 2005 or 2006.
Bill Ectric: How old were you when you started taking photographs?
Larry Keenan: I started in the 7th grade. In those days, I wanted to be a cartoonist and/or animator. My grandfather made me an animation box with the backlight, etc. I drew all the frames for my 3-minute movie. I used my parents 8mm movie camera to film each frame. It worked – the film was in real animation.
My parents took us to the opening of Disneyland that summer. While we were down there, my dad had a friend who knew guy in Disney’s orchestra. He arranged for me to take a private tour to visit the Disney Studios. There, I met some unhappy animators, who all told me to do something else. They told me that they were all trapped into doing only their specialty, which
might be: water, clouds, trees, flowers, etc. They told me there was no variety. When I got back home a painter at my parent’s remodeled kitchen used to work at DC Comics. He was not encouraging either. I needed
variety and I already knew what being trapped was like, living at home. I ended up charging my friends a buck a signature and began signing report cards using my animation box. My first still images were underwater
photos I shot with a camera I bought and I used an underwater case I had made for it while in the 9th grade.