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Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series (Doug Biggert), c. 1968-72

If you spend time with Doug, he'll start taking pictures of you. It just happens.
It was just a thing he did because it was interesting to him and then it became a practice of his, especially after the Sandal Shop series, to just always have a camera. And if you look at all of the boxes and boxes of photos that has all over his house, he documents every single thing.
Now it's normal that people do that because we have cell phones, people are always walking around documenting every tedious little thing in their life, but Doug was doing that going back to the 60s. Film was expensive and people didn't necessarily just take a lot of random photos, but he did. Even pretty early on it became habitual for him to just photograph things, it was almost an obsession for him to have as many photographs as he could.

One of the interesting things about this collection of photos is when you start at the beginning, you can see the way the photos operate over the course of the four years. Tom Garver, the curator at the Newport Harbor Museum, came in the shop in maybe ’71 and said these are great, keep taking them for two more years and I'll give you a show at the museum, okay? At that point, Doug knew he was going to have an exhibition and you can tell he’s starting to look at things more compositionally than he does in the beginning, where things seem a lot more happenstance. If you're doing something every day, constantly, you're going to get better at it, you just keep refining your eyes and finding your eye.
What Tom was initially taken with was that Doug was taking these photos and just sticking them on the wall of the Sandal Shop. He started because the sandals lasted for such a long time that people would resole them, so he was documenting people who had sandals that had lasted a really long time. In some of the photographs there are people holding up the sandals with a sign saying, like, I've had these for five years or I've had these for 10 years with two soles replaced.
Then that expanded into Doug just photographing his friends and the people who were hanging out there, it was all ending up on the wall and Tom thought that it would make a good installation. Tom was somebody who was really adventurous for his time, writing about the photography scene, seeking out people who, like Doug, had no formal education. Once that show happened, Tom and Doug became really good friends and they ended up taking a road trip across country together and going to Rifle Valley to work on Valley Curtain, the Christo project.

I think Doug would never admit this, but when Tom gave him that show, he started thinking of himself differently. Doug tries to pretend that this is all sort of natural, happenstance, he's just taking all these photos and he's not pretentious. Then when I would sit down and go through them with him, if there was a photo I really like, he’d go, no, that's terrible, and then he would break down all these compositional things that didn't work. This whole idea of Doug’s, that he’s not an artist is bullshit – he’s looking at these as aesthetic objects and can recognize when something's working or not, but if I bring that up he would get frustrated with me and change the subject. You look at a photograph like this one from 71 with the girl walking the dog – you can really tell how far everything had come from the 60s. He's not just candidly snapping photos of people with their sandals anymore, people are suddenly more posed.

These two women were the Slick Chicks. One of them, was the only woman that he had ever had a relationship with, it was not interesting to him and that was the end of that. One of them, he's the godfather to her first child; a lot of these photographs are people that he had good relationships with that have sustained, some were just neighborhood people.

This guy was a merchant marine or something – or at least that's what he claimed. He would intimate that he had a shadowy background just super high intrigue. Whether was true or not, I don't know, but there are some really funny photos of that guy. He's kind of LA: you can be whoever you want to be, he was a character.

In the Sandal Shop photos you can just tell there's an intimacy between Doug and a lot of the people he's photographing. They're enjoying Doug's company, which is something I hadn't thought about that much but now it's something that really stands out for me. If you look at some of his photographs, you have people there just because they had really interesting shoes or something about the way they looked was interesting or he liked this person's hat. Doug doesn't have a huge agenda, he's gravitating towards people he finds interesting and if they end up being interesting for other reasons, great, and if they just are people he knows that's great too. He was pretty equal opportunity, an enthusiast of just humans in general. There's no pressure of trying to maintain something, trying to keep himself in an art scene or to be successful somehow.
The flip side is Doug is really interesting to talk to you and then he's very unique, you don't meet a lot of people who are as conversant in almost anything. Doug can talk to anyone about anything and have some idea what he's talking about because he reads all the time and listens to news radio from all over the world. He is just a very well informed, articulate person who has no reservations about talking to anyone.

Doug got to be friends with Chris and Barbara Burden in 1971, though Doug was closer friends with Barbara Burden than Chris. He did know the Burdens pretty well and I think it's something he really felt cool about – also he loved being at the nexus of a lot of activity with interesting people. What's interesting is that they were all really good friends, Christopher and Barbara Burden and Phyllis Lutjeans. The photos of Phyllis are from December 71, then TV Hijack happened in February of the following year, and there are only photos of Chris and Barbara after that, no more photos of Phyllis. Doug's memory of it was they had a falling out after that happened, which would not be surprising. I always thought the photos of Phyllis were taken at about the same time that the photos of Chris but she shows up pre-TV Hijack and never again.

Doug wasn't seeking out any artistic community, it just was a confluence of where he was and when he was there. What they were doing, conceptually, was probably interesting to Doug but the fact that they were doing something so interesting was more interesting to Doug. Other artists and photographers were working there, like The Los Angeles Fine Arts Squad, Doug was friends with them. They were the wacky art guys who would do weird installations and pop-ups and murals and things like that; they made a submarine and they floated it in the harbor. When Doug was getting ready to move, they tried to give it to him. He was going to take it but he had nowhere to store it. It’s not clear why they were all hanging out at this beach because it wasn't wasn't super convenient. That time was really a transition in the neighborhood between it being a kind of sleepy beach town and then turning into a bedroom community for the super rich.

This is one of the only photos with Sam and Cleaners, and this woman was just one of the women in the neighborhood who Doug got to know just being around. The one that's most visible is Sam and then you can kind of make out a little bit of the top of Cleaners. There is this whole moment when Doug had these two scrappy, little dogs, and Sam and Cleaners. Doug had been letting those dogs walk off leash and he ended up getting ticketed. All these police came out and so he made this photo diary of the entire situation, he photographed the police, he photographed himself going to court to fight the tickets and bringing the dogs with him, the whole thing is so funny.
Doug always had a pocket of dog treats everywhere he went. If he was just walking down the street and encountered a dog, he would give a dog a treat – the dog probably went right over him!

The guy on the far left is Gary Colbert, he is one of Doug's lifeline best friends. Back then Gary was this teenager who loitered in front of the sandal shop and the two of them smoked weed and drank and just worked all day. They made this campaign of signs that they put all over the neighborhood about dog crap. The BPCC was like the Balboa public community or something like that and one sign was, may you sit in your own dogs crap and another was, more more crap equals more flies.
This was around the time when Doug was making his own bumper stickers, he was just obsessed with bumper stickers. You see some in the Sandal Shop window, a lot of the bumper stickers he made were usually on crappy paper, so I always wondered how well they hold up.

There are two things about Doug that I have always been really jealous and one is that he is boundlessly curious, just voraciously so. He is one of the most curious people I've ever met. He also is driven by other people. He was taken with what those people were doing and he does like to be connected to big deal people, but at the same time, he’s invested in the dispossessed. The other thing with Doug is that he always seems like he's in the middle of something. As long as I've known him, Doug’s always has this huge orbit of people hanging around him, no matter where he is. He’s told me that the thing that drove him was needing to remember everybody, so that's why he would take pictures because then he would remember them.
 

Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series (Doug Biggert), c. 1968-72. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series (Doug Biggert), c. 1968-72. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

If you spend time with Doug, he’ll start taking pictures of you. It just happens.
It was just a thing he did because it was interesting to him and then it became a practice of his, especially after the Sandal Shop series, to just always have a camera. And if you look at all of the boxes and boxes of photos that has all over his house, he documents every single thing.
Now it’s normal that people do that because we have cell phones, people are always walking around documenting every tedious little thing in their life, but Doug was doing that going back to the ‘60s. Film was expensive and people didn’t necessarily just take a lot of random photos, but he did. Even pretty early on it became habitual for him to just photograph things, it was almost an obsession for him to have as many photographs as he could.

Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series (Tom Garver), June 1971. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series (Tom Garver), June 1971. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

One of the interesting things about the Sandal Shop series is when you start at the beginning, you can see the way the photos operate over the course of the four years. Tom Garver (at left), the curator at the Newport Harbor Museum, came in the shop in maybe ‘71 and said these are great, keep taking them for two more years and I’ll give you a show at the museum, okay? At that point, Doug knew he was going to have an exhibition and you can tell he’s starting to look at things more compositionally than he does in the beginning, where things seem a lot more happenstance. If you’re doing something every day, constantly, you’re going to get better at it, you just keep refining your eyes and finding your eye.
What Tom was initially taken with was that Doug was taking these photos and just sticking them on the wall of the Sandal Shop. He started because the sandals lasted for such a long time that people would resole them, so he was documenting people who had sandals that had lasted a really long time. In some of the photographs there are people holding up the sandals with a sign saying, like, I’ve had these for five years or I’ve had these for ten years with two soles replaced.
Then that expanded into Doug just photographing his friends and the people who were hanging out there, it was all ending up on the wall and Tom thought that it would make a good installation. Tom was somebody who was really adventurous for his time, writing about the photography scene, seeking out people who, like Doug, had no formal education. Once that show happened, Tom and Doug became really good friends and they ended up taking a road trip across country together and going to Rifle Valley to work on Valley Curtain, the Christo project.

Doug Biggert, The Slick Chicks, Tara and Colleen, December 1971. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

Doug Biggert, The Slick Chicks, Tara and Colleen, December 1971. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

These two women were the Slick Chicks. One of them, was the only woman that he had ever had a relationship with, it was not interesting to him and that was the end of that. One of them, he’s the godfather to her first child; a lot of these photographs are people that he had good relationships with that have sustained, some were just neighborhood people.

Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series, July 1971. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series, July 1971. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

This guy was a merchant marine or something – or at least that's what he claimed. He would intimate that he had a shadowy background just super high intrigue. Whether was true or not, I don't know, but there are some really funny photos of that guy. He's kind of LA: you can be whoever you want to be, he was a character.

In the Sandal Shop photos you can just tell there's an intimacy between Doug and a lot of the people he's photographing. They're enjoying Doug's company, which is something I hadn't thought about that much but now it's something that really stands out for me. If you look at some of his photographs, you have people there just because they had really interesting shoes or something about the way they looked was interesting or he liked this person's hat. Doug doesn't have a huge agenda, he's gravitating towards people he finds interesting and if they end up being interesting for other reasons, great, and if they just are people he knows that's great too. He was pretty equal opportunity, an enthusiast of just humans in general. There's no pressure of trying to maintain something, trying to keep himself in an art scene or to be successful somehow.
The flip side is Doug is really interesting to talk to you and then he's very unique, you don't meet a lot of people who are as conversant in almost anything. Doug can talk to anyone about anything and have some idea what he's talking about because he reads all the time and listens to news radio from all over the world. He is just a very well informed, articulate person who has no reservations about talking to anyone.

Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series (Chris Burden), April 1972. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series (Chris Burden), April 1972. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series (Barbara Burden), April 1972. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series (Barbara Burden), April 1972. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series (Phyllis Lutjeans and friend), December 1971. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series (Phyllis Lutjeans and friend), December 1971. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

Doug got to be friends with Chris and Barbara Burden in 1971, though Doug was closer friends with Barbara Burden than Chris. He did know the Burdens pretty well and I think it's something he really felt cool about – Doug loved being at the nexus of a lot of activity with interesting people. What's interesting is that they were all really good friends, Christopher and Barbara Burden and Phyllis Lutjeans. The photos of Phyllis are from December '71, then TV Hijack happened in February of the following year and there are only photos of Chris and Barbara after that, no more photos of Phyllis. Doug's memory of it was the Burdens and Phyllis had a falling out after the broadcast, which would not be surprising. I always thought the photos of Phyllis were taken at about the same time that the photos of Chris but she shows up pre-TV Hijack and never again.

Doug wasn't seeking out any artistic community, it just was a confluence of where he was and when he was there. What they were doing, conceptually, was probably interesting to Doug but the fact that they were doing something so interesting was more interesting to Doug. Other artists and photographers were working there, like The Los Angeles Fine Arts Squad, Doug was friends with them. They were the wacky art guys who would do weird installations and pop-ups and murals and things like that; they made a submarine and they floated it in the harbor. When Doug was getting ready to move, they tried to give it to him. He was going to take it but he had nowhere to store it. It’s not clear why they were all hanging out at this beach because it wasn't wasn't super convenient. That time was really a transition in the neighborhood between it being a kind of sleepy beach town and then turning into a bedroom community for the super rich.

Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series, August 1971. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

Doug Biggert, Sandal Shop Series, August 1971. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

The guy on the far left is Gary Colbert, he is one of Doug’s lifetime best friends. Back then Gary was this teenager who loitered in front of the sandal shop and the two of them smoked weed and drank and just worked all day. They made this campaign of signs that they put all over the neighborhood about dog crap. The BPCC was like the Balboa public community or something like that and one sign was, may you sit in your own dogs crap and another was, more more crap equals more flies.
This was around the time when Doug was making his own bumper stickers, he was just obsessed with bumper stickers. You see some in the Sandal Shop window, a lot of the bumper stickers he made were usually on crappy paper, so I always wondered how well they hold up.

Doug Biggert, Elena, Neighbor, and Beloved Sam, October 1971. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

Doug Biggert, Elena, Neighbor, and Beloved Sam, October 1971. Kodak Instamatic print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.

This is one of the only photos with Sam and Cleaners, and this woman was just one of the women in the neighborhood who Doug got to know just being around. The one that's most visible is Sam and then you can kind of make out a little bit of the top of Cleaners. There was this whole moment when Doug had these two scrappy, little dogs, and Sam and Cleaners. Doug had been letting the dogs walk off leash and he ended up getting ticketed. All these police came out and so he made this photo diary of the entire situation: he photographed the police, he photographed himself going to court to fight the tickets and bringing the dogs with him, the whole thing is so funny.
Doug always had a pocket of dog treats everywhere he went. If he was just walking down the street and encountered a dog, he would give a dog a treat – the dog probably went right over to him!

There are two things about Doug that I have always been really jealous and one is that he is boundlessly curious, just voraciously so. He is one of the most curious people I've ever met. He also is driven by other people. He was taken with what those people were doing and he does like to be connected to big deal people, but at the same time, he’s invested in the dispossessed. The other thing with Doug is that he always seems like he's in the middle of something. As long as I've known him, Doug’s always has this huge orbit of people hanging around him, no matter where he is. He’s told me that the thing that drove him was needing to remember everybody, so that's why he would take pictures because then he would remember them.