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Untitled Document

Occupying ‘The Rock’

15 October 2003


Michelle Vignes photo

When American Indians from many different tribes staged a 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay starting in November 1969, French-born photographer Michelle Vignes, now 77, was on hand to document their stay. The Bancroft Library recently acquired Vignes’ archive — a rich record of the American Indian Movement and other major social movements of the late 20th century.

"She gives you a look at something you won’t find in the mainstream press," says Bancroft Library Pictorial Curator Jack von Euw. "It’s not the paparazzi version of documentary photography."

Von Euw notes Vignes’ commitment to spending a great deal of time with her subjects. She not only documented the founding of the American Indian Movement, for example, but followed it for almost 25 years. Her archive — which complements the Bancroft’s social-protest and Free Speech Movement collections — includes documentary series on draft induction centers during the Vietnam War, daily life in Mexican pueblos and American truck stops, and Oakland’s vibrant blues scene.

A slideshow showcasing works in the Bancroft archive is available online. Go to newscenter.berkeley.edu and enter “Vignes” in the search engine.