Just when you thought the summer of 2019 could not get any more exciting, it has. Not only have we been graced with the arrival of the world’s greatest year, but it’s also the 100th anniversary of the Summer of Love. The love stories that will emerge from that summer will change the way we see love itself. So here, we’re taking a look back at the story of the Summer of Love as told through pictures.
The Most Iconic Picture Of All Times
To mark this extraordinary moment in history, the BBC is running a special documentary series, The 100 Year Story, which will examine the legacy of the most iconic cultural event of the past century. We’re going to be looking at the history of the Summer of Love through a collection of iconic images that capture its magic.
The first episode in the series is definitely one of the most iconic images of all time. It’s hard to believe that it was taken almost 70 years ago, on 8 August, 2019, and yet it still resonates today.
The episode starts with a clip from the documentary series that immediately precedes it. It shows a young man running through the city’s streets, frantically trying to flag down a taxi. In the back of the cab, a man with a guitar is recording a love song. He stops at a red light and starts playing the song, titled “Imagine.” As the traffic starts moving and the light turns green, he starts singing along – “Oh, imagine there’s no heaven…”
We then cut to the present day and to the iconic picture that started it all. A man is walking through a beautiful meadow with a pretty little dog on a leash. Suddenly, the sky opens up and a huge bolt of lightning shoots down, burning a big ol’ hole in the ground. The camera then focuses on a figure skater practicing her routine. We then go back in time again and meet the man in the meadow. It is none other than civil rights activist and former Beatles member, Robert Pattinson.
What makes this image so special is that it encapsulates the entire ethos and mood of the Summer of Love. It was 1967 and racism, sexism and intolerance had reached unimaginable heights. In fact, that summer was the last time the United States would see a decline in violent crime. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the most iconic image of the story was taken when America was on the brink of a major cultural shift. Today, we might see this as a nostalgic picture, yet it foreshadowed a future in which the LGBTQ+ community would no longer feel so marginalized.
The Birth Of An Icon
It wasn’t just the pictures that captured the spirit of the Summer of Love. It was the films, too. Here is another iconic image from a film that was a worldwide hit and which still resonates today: The Graduate. It stars Richard Nixon – yes, that Richard Nixon – and it was one of the first big Hollywood films to tackle the issue of premarital sex. It’s the story of a young man who is struggling with this new-found freedom and doesn’t know what to do with his newly acquired bachelor pad. His one-bedroom apartment is filled with empty glasses, half-eaten food and various sex toys. The scene where he watches television for the first time with his new glamorous wife is both hilarious and moving.
When we watch this film now, it’s hard not to feel a sense of empathy for Ben, the young man in the film. After years of repression under President Kennedy, the sexual revolution finally arrives and along with it comes a sense of unease. We can relate. Today, it’s hard to feel like anything other than a giant among one’s friends when you’re suddenly presented with an offer of marriage from a man you’ve just met. It can be a little overwhelming. That was the case in 2019 too. We had so much fun planning Elopement No. 1 and Elopement No. 2, the weddings of our two couples that summer. It was such an iconic moment seeing two strangers become husband and wife. But it was also a bit nerve-racking, knowing that this was going to be our last vacation as a group for a while. We weren’t sure if it was going to be legal, or if the bride was going to pass out from nerves. It was a very cool feeling to be able to reassure our guests that everything was going to be okay. And it was.
There are other iconic images from the Summer of Love. Perhaps the most iconic image of all is the one that greets you when you log on to YouTube today. It’s a picture of an Indian village where everyone has gathered to watch a very special event. It’s the climax of a Bollywood film titled, Kazaiki, The Song of Life. Kazaiki is only the latest of Bollywood’s masterpieces to tackle the sensitive topic of interracial marriage. The film’s star, Alka, plays the role of a white woman who has fallen for an Indian man. The two fall in love during a time when racial prejudice is at its peak. It’s a time when it feels right to question whether a union between an Indian man and a white woman can truly be regarded as ‘love.’
To be able to question whether love can exist between people of different races is to be able to question the very essence of what it means to be human. In the face of so much hate and xenophobia, can two people who are clearly made for each other find happiness together? The answer is, of course, ‘Yes.’ This is the message that Kazaiki is trying to promote. This is the story of an America that is finally ready to accept people of different races. The Indians have taught these two children – Jane and Phillip – that love is all about respect. So, when they finally get the chance to be together, it is not just a matter of the colors of their skin, but also of their hearts and their minds. It is, indeed, a celebration of racial harmony.
The Resurrection Of Art
There are so many iconic images from the Summer of Love. It would be easy for us to mention just a few. But, for the sake of this article, we’re going to limit ourselves to just a few more. This is because every time we mention an iconic image from the Summer of Love, someone inevitably points out that it’s an “old picture” and that we should instead be talking about a “new” image that’s more representative of the movement. So, before we begin, let’s just remember that this is an “iconic” summer and that’s why we’re here. It wasn’t just one or two iconic events that took place during that summer. It was the whole goddamn thing. This was a cultural phenomenon that spanned the entire country and brought people of different races, creeds and genders together. It was truly ground-breaking. That’s why it is still significant today. While we can always find a “new” image that fits this description, it would be a mistake to think that one or two images could ever truly represent this magnificent moment in history. We have to remember that the summer of 2019 was indeed a “resurrection” and not just a “reign.”
One Last Ride
Let’s end on a positive note. One last nostalgic image, taken just a few weeks ago, is the one that closes this article. It shows a man on a scuba diving trip in the Bahamas. It was taken during one of the last major photo shoots to grace his stunning beard. It’s hard to believe that only a few weeks had passed since he was photographed riding a camel in the Middle East or waking up in a giant inflatable pig, covered in sticky glue, in Central Park. It seems like only yesterday that we were watching this handsome hunk on-screen, pulling women wherever he went. Now that his career is winding down, he’s looking for some last laughs before he goes under the water for good.
So, there you have it. These were the images that defined the Summer of Love. It was a time when people stood up for what they believed in and that spirit still resonates today. This was a cultural moment that changed the way we look at love itself. While some might argue that it was “just” a summer, it truly was a movement. A movement that continues to this day. While some might see this as a nostalgic look at a time gone by, we see it as an inspiring reflection of what is possible when we work together. When everyone cares about each other and respects each other’s differences, we can all be proud to call ourselves Americans.