Karl Baden

Karl Baden, Death Valley, California, 1975


Karl Baden, New Mexico, 1975


Karl Baden, Mormon Center, Salt Lake City, 1975


Karl Baden, Columbus, Ohio, 1975


Karl Baden, Rodeo, Cody, Wyoming, 1975


Karl Baden, Baja California, Mexico, 1975


Karl Baden, Painted Desert, 1975


I graduated from college in December of 1975. I should have graduated with my classmates the previous Spring, but a couple of years earlier I had taken a semester off to go to Peru. I won’t disclose my reasons for going; I’ll just repeat: I went to Peru.

I brought along my dad’s old 35mm Mamiya Sekor, and by the time I came back, I had – at least in my mind – become a photographer. So when I finally got out of school, it was natural for me to take off on another cross-country trip. This time, I drove with a college pal to Berkeley, California, then down into Mexico. I hitchhiked back to Berkeley on my own, and after a month or two of living there, another college friend and I meandered around the country for five or six more months,┬áin his pickup truck with a camper top.

In those times, there didn’t seem to be as much pressure for someone just out of school to make money or have a corporate career. We all fantasized we’d end up on communes. Many of my college pals took off around the U.S. and even other countries for a year or so until they freaked out about a job and responsibility, and settled down. All the drug dealers became lawyers. My friend Dave and I were photographers, we imagined, in the spirit of the counterculture and Robert Frank. From April into September of that year, the two of us, along with my dog (a Siberian Husky), drove and photographed during the day, and lived in the bed of the pickup, under the camper top, at night.

When we finally got back east, I developed the 100 rolls of film I’d shot, made contact sheets, a few prints, and thought, “Now what?” We had a two-man show; ‘Souvenirs.’ Some of the photos were in group shows over the next year or two, and then they went back into the box for what is now the better part of a half-century.

I continued taking pictures, got my MFA, and have been a photographer, pretty much following the path I began in the ’70s, for almost 45 years now. The reasons for me to go back to the old pictures from this trip are various, having to do with the invention of film scanners (since most of these negatives were never printed), and opportunities provided by social media, through which I am able to give them a second shot at existence. But what is most important for me at this juncture is to establish a sense of continuity; a trajectory between then and now. Taking pictures in the real world has helped in allowing me to see my life, for better or for worse, unfolding over decades of time. And for that, I am most appreciative.