Charles Brittin - Photographer: The Beat Years

A quiet documentarian of his time, Charles Brittin photographed Venice in the 1950s and 1960s, leaving an unparalleled record of the social and artistic movements of the era. Best known for his coverage of the avant-garde and beat scenes, Brittin was also an acute observer of the racial and economic disparities of the area. His photographs of Oakwood in the 1960s show the growing interest in political activism that led him to document the wider civil rights movement in Los Angeles.

The photos below illustrate a somewhat forgotten time in Venice history, before the better-known eras of artists and surfers, when the beatnik poets, many of them centered around coffee shops such as the Gas House and Venice West. Photos courtesy of the Getty Research Institute, Charles Brittin Archives.


More vintage photography by Charles Brittin:

Oakwood, Venice by Charles Brittin
Pacific Ocean Park by Charles Brittin

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