The Photographic Alphabet: F is for The Family Acid
by Liana DeMasi
Reggae, LSD, the Vietnam War, good friends, great sex, concerts, copious amounts of weed, the 60s, the 70s, and a man and his camera. Sounds like the makings of a kickass story, and it is, but it’s also part of Roger Steffens’ life and the basis for The Family Acid.
Steffens worked in a psychological unit upon being drafted into the Vietnam War where he was asked to document his assignments on film. His work during the war sparked his multi-decade-long love affair with his camera.
Even though The Family Acid has an Instagram following of over 30k, a book, and a current exhibition at the Benrubi Gallery in New York City, Steffens did not take any of his photos with the intent of showing them to a public audience. It was not until years later that Devon and Kate, Roger’s children, realized how influential the images were and began scanning and posting them on Instagram.
The Family Acid is like stepping back into a time machine and experiencing all of those stories you wished you lived through (maybe minus the explosions in ‘Nam—I can’t say I’m upset about avoiding the draft by decades and gender). Crosby, Stills and Nash concerts, rest stops along miles of roads traveled, reggae concerts, back seat make out sessions, and plenty of psychedelic images—reminiscent of the frequent LSD and acid trips Roger partook in.
Steffens actually owes a lot to acid. He met his wife, also a collaborator on this project, while they were both tripping. The Family Acid got its name because his daughter said she grew up having her friends telling her her family was “like a normal family, but on acid.” Normal is definitely not the first word that comes to mind when I think of the Steffens family, but it’s not the word I want to come to mind. They are far from normal, and I’m glad that they are; normal would not have given us The Family Acid.
The Benrubi Gallery will be having
on view through August 26, 2016.