by Sean Jewell ::
Roger Steffens is much more than a photographer. He’s a father, an archivist, a Vietnam veteran, a radio personality, the world’s foremost expert on Bob Marley, and an author. Since 1961 he’s worked as a DJ, and co-hosted Reggae Beat on KCRW in LA for years. He’s recorded, interviewed, or contributed liner notes to every reggae, world beat, or pop artist you can name from Fela Kuti to David Byrne. It’s been reported that six whole rooms of his house are dedicated to his Bob Marley archive, a collection which he divines his world-renowned lectures on the reggae icon from. He was spared frontline combat in Vietnam based on his IQ and served in Psychological Operations. During his time there he established a refugee campaign that saw him awarded a bronze star. Documenting this experience is where his love of photography began.
From SUN editions:
Steffens started making photographs while serving in the Psychological Operations division in Vietnam, a time in which he began a journalistic record of his surroundings marked by an increasingly psychedelic lens. Spanning 40 years of Steffens’ life and culled from over 40,000 chrome photographs, The Family Acid presents his often transcendent vision and life as a psychedelic pioneer on the order of Timothy Leary and Hunter S Thompson beginning with his work in Vietnam and moving through his ever revolving circle of friends and characters made up of rastas, beatniks, musicians, artists, gonzo journalists, his family, and himself. The portraits, scenes, and freewheeling experimentation with the medium of photography coalesce into a body of work that both parallels and defines the countercultural ethos of Steffens’ generation.
Beginning in 2012 his son and daughter began scanning his some 40,000 Kodachrome slides documenting his experiences in Vietnam, ’60s counterculture California, the reggae music business, and everyday life. They’re a fitting visual aid to describe the life of a man who spent much of his life documenting and archiving behind the scenes. An instagram account, aptly named @TheFamilyAcid by his daughter as a reference to the family’s counterculture roots, rightly garnered all the attention the book needed to become a success.