We are asking for your help to develop and scan more than 3,000 rolls of film and preserve a personal vision of rock history in America – sometimes sensitive and intimate, sometimes raucous and playful – seen through the eyes of master photographer Charles Daniels over 50 years.
Some of you know may Charles (aka Charlie) as an accomplished Somerville, Massachusetts photographer who shows up with his camera when something beautiful and a bit mysterious is unfolding: dancers in a parking lot, a festival of fire in Union Square, a hidden rave under McGrath Highway.
But as you get to know him better, crazy stories come out. Because Charles is also the Master Blaster, a legendary MC who danced on stage with his tambourine through the turbulent 60s, when international bands and local rockers tore up the Boston Tea Party in the South End. As the Master Blaster, Charles was Peter Wolf's 3 a.m. sidekick on WBCN, Boston's revolutionary radio station. In the 70s, he toured the US with some of the most famous musicians in rock history, hanging out and horsing around, hitting hotel pools and green rooms from the Las Vegas strip to the middle of nowhere. And where he went, so did his camera.
Sometimes known as "two Nikon Charlie," Charles always had a camera with him, shooting whatever caught his eye; this is how he lived his life -- through the lens. Over the years, hundred of film canisters accumulated, stuffed in drawers, boxes and closets. We know these rolls contain rare glimpses from the legendary Boston rock scene that Charles was part of. We also expect surprises, from 1960s antiwar protests to ordinary people on the streets of Boston caught in a revelatory moment.
Charles was born in segregated rural Alabama in 1942, where his parents ran a late night speakeasy after farming cotton all day; maybe that's how outlaw music got into his blood. After moving with his family to Roxbury, he found his niche in the Bohemian scene of Harvard Square in the 1960s and rock clubs hosting the British Invasion. He taught himself the complex art of film photography and used his lens and unique access to frame the joyful chaos, legendary musicians, and backstage scenes around him, shooting just in time to catch the vivid moment. These never-seen photographs hold the story of a remarkable life and an era of enormous social/cultural change.
Some of Charles' photos have been published, but most are still undeveloped and therefore unseen. Film was expensive then, and it's even more expensive now. So much of his film is still "in the can" -- 2,500 rolls and counting, over 40,000 images. And a new bag of film or box of slides could turn up anytime thanks to Charles' longtime partner, Susan Berstler. Susan has taken on the Herculean task of organizing his life's work and making sure his photos are preserved and shared. Susan is in conversation with several interested university archives to identify a final home for his unique collection of images, and identifying the best lab to take on this mammoth project.
Why is this important now?
Charles was recently diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS). While we have high hopes of successful treatment, this serious health condition has brought home the urgency of acting now. The film is only one part of his legacy; we aim to preserve Charles' unique memories and stories along with his photos through audio recordings of his narrated accounts of a selection of the photos.
Q: what will my donation cover?
A: Processing and scanning, at a state of the art lab with a special expertise in vintage film. Printing select exhibition quality samples. This project will be managed by Charles' partner, Susan Berstler, an accomplished arts activist, artist and curator; she will be responsible for administering all funds raised, which will be restricted to developing, scanning, printing and other costs directly related to preserving the archive of Charles Daniels.
Q: What will happen to the film and photos?
A: Several universities have expressed serious interest in setting up an archive to preserve this work and make it accessible to anyone. In addition, having sample professional prints will make it possible to find exhibition and publication opportunities which will celebrate the life and accomplishments of Charles Daniels, a largely unrecognized African American artist.
Q: Will I receive anything in return for my contribution?
A: Go Fund Me is set up as a way to make a gift to support a passion project or cause, without receiving anything back -- except, of course the satisfaction of advancing a cause you believe in. However, our supporters will be added to a VIP email list and receive periodic updates on what we discover as the film is developed...so you'll be the first to see some of these images!
Q: Anything else I should know?
A: Yes, we hope to preserve Charles's story along with his photographs. We haven't even told you yet about his career as a hairdresser in Roxbury, or a cowboy in Western Massachusetts.