Most families don’t have their parents’ FBI files in dusty boxes. Alice Proujansky’s does.
Hard Times are Fighting Times describes the legacy of Proujansky’s parents’ participation in radical leftist groups like Weatherman, the Native American Solidarity Committee and Prairie Fire Organizing Committee that sought to overthrow imperialism and capitalism through organizing and revolution.
Proujansky began work on Hard Times are Fighting Times in 2017, photographing her parents’ propaganda archive, surveillance records, family snapshots and current lives, describing their activism, and subsequent turn toward family life, from an intimate distance.
She writes, “My parents fell in love while planning a 60,000-person demonstration in 1976 (their friends joked it would never last: my mom was a Marxist, my dad an anarcho-communist). The story of their activism is the story of me.
Radicals like my parents believed that another world was possible, that together they could forge a more just future for humanity. Their utopian dreams of Marxist-Leninism, feminist rigor and fairness are deeply compelling – but also intensely rigid.”
Weatherman bombed the Capitol, the Pentagon, the State Department and the NYPD Headquarters. They issued communiques (“Don’t Look For Us, Dog; We’ll Find You First”) and rioted to bring down the US government. The FBI was intensely focused on this small group of mostly white college students, tapping phones, surveilling members and attempting to infiltrate the organization.
Fears of surveillance and a need for secrecy left few photographs in Proujansky’s family archive. But the New Left was image-driven in another sense: the aspirational image of uncompromising radicals seeking revolution at any cost. Mainstream histories of the movement focus on curdled utopianism, charismatic individuals, flower children gone druggy and dark.
Hard Times are Fighting Times offers a fuller understanding. Violent dogma plays a part, but so does a beautiful dream of shared labor, equity and justice. Personal items show rigid expectations, but also familial love, loyalty and humor. The book describes a family unit with its own political movement, nation-state, culture and system of belief, as Proujansky considers if she can live up to these expectations: which parts of these perspectives to keep, and what to discard?
AUTHOR: Alice Proujansky
DESIGN: Heijdens Karwei
TITLE: Hard Times are Fighting Times
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2023
228 pages, 128 plates, accompanied by an interview by Kristen Lubben
280x217x13mm, 692 grams
EDITION: 650; First edition, first printing
This book was funded by Magnum Foundation, the Peleh fund and a Polycopies & Co. publishing support grant.