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"Ascension." The Ferris Wheel World at the 1972 Watts Summer Festival. Orig. Signed Photograph

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“Ascension.” The Ferris Wheels of the 1972 Watts Summer Festival provided their own literal opportunity to rise above your surroundings and take flight – not just imagine it, but do it. The photographer was attempting to capture how the ferris wheels shared such a resemblance in structure, movement, and meaning to that of Simon Rodia’s towers.

The fish-eye lens used for this photograph allowed the photographer to get both the expression of the young boy and the ferris wheels and join them in the same world. This moment reveals what took place just after the boy had asked me about my “weird camera.”

Shot originally with 35mm B&W film, it was converted to digital with high resolution scanning using an Epson Perfection V700 scanner. It is part of a series of photographs taken in August 1972 during the 6th Annual Watts Summer Festival and just before the legendary WattStax** concert held at the Coliseum in Los Angeles as the finale to the Summer Festival.

** WattStax is often referred to as the Black Woodstock. A documentary of the concert exists in two different versions. I recommend the version that includes Richard Pryor doing commentary about every 10 minutes that is classic and very smart Richard at his best. The "Stax" part of WattStax refers to what then was one of the best black recording studios of that time, rivaling Motown. The artists appearing at WattStax included The Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Albert King, Luther Ingram and Isaac Hayes. In those days, the Coliseum could seat over 100,000 and WattStax kept it at standing room only for the entire 12 hours of music (112,000).