‘Leave it to some Swedes to produce a gourgeous book about the American West’.
The book Floating in Sausalito by Lars Åberg, journalist, and Lars Strandberg, photographer,is an ambitious, intriguing, and beautiful portrait of a close-knit houseboat community just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. We simply had to ask Lars Åberg to tell us more about this fascinating project.
Words by: Jonas Henningsson Photos: Lars Strandberg (From the book Floating in Sausalito)
How did you come up with the idea to do Floating in Sausalito?
-With my good friend and colleague, photographer Lars Strandberg, I have traveled extensively throughout the US, and in 2011 our book on the American West, titled simply ”West”, was released by a US publisher. We were overwhelmed by the positive reviews – ”Leave it to some Swedes to produce a gorgeous book about the American West”, “Photos and essays that ring painfully, powerfully and yet lovingly true”, and so on – and we of course felt encouraged to find a new topic out west.
As we spent time in San Francisco working on the ”West” project, we visited the small town of Sausalito just north of the Golden Gate Bridge and immediately became infatuated with the houseboat community and its spirited history.
The Sausalito houseboaters form the largest community of its kind in the US, and with our own keen interest in American culture we were more than happy to dig into this enclave with beat and hippie roots. In the late 1960s, we both saw most of the legendary San Francisco bands on tour in Europe, and several of them then lived or performed in Sausalito. So the connection was there, and so was the inclination to portray somewhat marginal groups away from the mainstream. The Sausalito houseboat community with its colorful residents and adventurous marin architecture seemed like a perfect story waiting to be told. We then returned to California with this idea for a book in mind.
How long did you work on the project, and what was most challenging in getting close to the community?
-The actual documentation in Sausalito was concentrated in time and we surprised ourselves with gathering so much material in just a few weeks. However, we came well prepared in terms of countercultural knowledge and personal contacts in the community. People were extremely friendly and willing to open their homes to us. We were told that one person who would never talk to strangers was Larry Moyer, an artist who lived on his late colleague Shel Silverstein’s (author, painter, songwriter) boat The Evil Eye. Moyer seemed like a guy you would want to meet, so we slipped a copy of our book ”West” under his door as an introduction and gave him 24 hours before we phoned him. He was completely enthusiastic about the book and invited us over for a long talk and a wonderful photo session!
Which stories and meetings made the strongest impression on you?
-Larry Moyer’s life story is indeed something you don’t want to miss. He had been in the Soviet Union and China in the 1950s and came, with Shel Silverstein, to San Francisco in 1967 to cover hippies and The Summer of Love for a national magazine. And they just stayed. Larry Moyer graces the cover of ”Floating in Sausalito”, but sadly passed away last year at the age of 92.
Can you compare this close-knit community with anything else you have written about before?
One obvious comparison would be Christiania in Copenhagen, but Sausalito is much more multifaceted and colorful. As it was originally located on the edges of society it also harbors elements of the old frontier mentality. The mental distance between a remote ranch in Wyoming and a houseboat in Sausalito may be shorter than you think.
So what about your future plans, any new projects?
-We are currently working on another US book with material from our numerous journeys in different parts of the country.
For more “Floating in Sausalito”go to kerberverlag.com or amazon.com.