Counterculture, music remembered in new photo collection at CU Boulder

Photographer and alumni Dan Fong donates work to archives

Dan Fong with Mick Jagger. Fong has donated more than 140 photo s to the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries.

Decades of Colorado music history will be preserved through a new donation to the University of Colorado Boulder’s library archives.

More than 140 photos by photographer and alumni Dan Fong are now a part of CU Boulder’s archives, the first of several donations that illuminate how music and counterculture shaped the Front Range in the 1960s and ’70s.

Many of Fong’s photographs have never been published, like shots of 2019 Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductee Zephyr playing on the steps of Norlin Library, and the Grateful Dead and the Doobie Brothers playing at Folsom Field.

Megan Friedel, head of the archive at the University of Colorado Boulder, with a photo of Jerry Garcia, taken by Dan Fong.

“We see this as the cornerstone of our growing Rocky Mountain counterculture archive,” said Megan Friedel, head of archives at CU Boulder. “He has captured a really vibrant moment in Colorado’s music history and done so really prolifically. These prints are just a tiny fraction of the negatives and contact prints he has in his studio.”

Though the collection focuses on the 1960s and ’70s, it has highlights that span Fong’s career, including one of the first photographs he took in middle school — a shot of President Dwight Eisenhower.

Fong described CU Boulder as “the perfect place” for the collection.

“There was so much stuff going on when I was going to college there. I graduated in the middle of the Vietnam War, and I just kept photographing everything,” he said. “If you see something you’re in awe of, you should probably be taking pictures of it.”

Fong said he didn’t think about printing or publishing his photos from decades ago because he didn’t think people would be interested in them. Friedel and library staff changed his mind, he said.

“The legacy and longevity of this project is fantastic,” he said. “It’s something a lot of artists work for their entire life, to have their work be a part of history.”

Fong printed the photos with archival paper and ink designed to last up to 400 years, he said.

This is likely the first of several donations, as Fong is still finding photos that show what counterculture in Boulder and Colorado was like. Many of them are negatives he hasn’t seen in 40 or 50 years.

“It’s a way for me to not only archive my work but a lot of people who need to be remembered from that period of time,” he said.

Fong’s photographs give context to what was happening in Colorado, Friedel said, from stadium concerts to small communes in the mountains.

“Dan was photographing not only musicians on stage but what it was like behind the scenes,” Friedel said. “To have that context around the music, the counterculture and what it was like throughout Boulder and the Front Range is what makes his material unique.”

Megan Friedel, head of archive at the University of Colorado Boulder, with a photo of Joe Walsh.

While the photographs are currently available to view in the Norlin Library reading room, Friedel said library staff are working on a public exhibit of the collection as well as creating digital copies to put online.

“Dan doesn’t get his due credit in the public, and for us this is a way to give him the credit he deserves and to bring his work to more public attention that it hasn’t gotten in the past,” Friedel said.

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