Celebration & War

By Larry Clinton

In his new book “Celebration & War -- The Sausalito Houseboat Community in the 1970s,” photographer Bruce Forrester recalls that era as “a place of creativity and high energy with theater, art, boat building, music and more... Every occasion was a cause for a celebration. Then came development that threatened this free wheeling way of life. New docks were planned along with rent increases. The community came together and fought back with every means at their disposal in an attempt to keep the Sausalito houseboats affordable housing.” 

Santa (AKA Frank Anderson) visits the docks in the 70s in this image from Bruce’s book.  Anderson was a local character who owned a nursery on Bridgeway.        ©Bruce Forrester

Santa (AKA Frank Anderson) visits the docks in the 70s in this image from Bruce’s book.  Anderson was a local character who owned a nursery on Bridgeway.        ©Bruce Forrester

Bruce was an eyewitness and chronicler of those turbulent times.  He moved to the north end of Sausalito, across the street from the early houseboat community, shortly after graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1974 with a BFA in photography. While he remained a landlubber, Bruce became involved with the waterfront community and from 1975-1980 he extensively photographed there. His inspiration was the can-do spirit and passion for life that was the most important part of the waterfront community. While many of his houseboat photos have been published in books and magazines, his new book is a collection of Bruce's favorite historic black and white images in glossy, high quality reproduction.

"It was a community where people took almost every opportunity to have a celebration, a celebration of life," says Forrester. "One person's creativity inspired the next person's creativity."

Many of Forrester's photos ran in a Marin Scope a column called "The Freebox," also the name of a large container where houseboaters would drop off unwanted items for someone else to use.

Forrester has been a frequent contributor to Sausalito Historical Society projects, such as the Arcadia book “Houseboats of Sausalito.”

The Society presented an exhibition of Bruce’s waterfront photographs in 2006. Announcing the exhibition in the Society’s newsletter, Margaret Badger wrote: “Forrester’s camera captured the faces and places that made up that unique world…the incubator of an iconoclastic lifestyle based on voluntary poverty, creativity, unfettered individuality and a strong sense of community.” Bruce’s photos also grace the book “Moondrifter Reverie,” reviewed recently here, and he appeared with author Keith Emmons at the Sausalito Library earlier this month.

After photographing the local waterfront, Bruce went on to a successful career in photography, specializing in people and events. Town & Country Magazine once called Bruce one of the top wedding photographers in the country. His photographs of celebrities have been published in more than 30 countries worldwide and his photography has been exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Bruce currently divides his time between Mill Valley and Maui, Hawaii. He continues his work as a photographer.

The book is available at bruceforrester1@gmail.com.