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You’re a lot less cool now, Dad. xo

My bus, there’s another vehicle and it looks like I’m plugged in. Maybe it was a candle though. Baja, Mexico... San Felipe?

Leica M3 - Phillip Forsyth-Smith For Dad - Victoria Forsyth-Smith

My dad was born June 1, 1941. He leads, what I would consider, an incredibly normal life today in Dallas, Texas. He was born in Canada, but grew up all over the globe. From sailing across the sea to go to school in Australia, New Zealand as a child, to high school in Hong Kong, and later years all across the United States. In a bus! Honestly, I can’t keep up with all of the places he has been. I have always known high-level information about the man who reared me, but he recently sent me some photos from his old 35mm Leica with little more information on them than vague locations. I have since come to believe he missed an opportunity to be a wildly successful photographer. This photo book catalogues some of his adventures from his thirties while he was living on a school bus that he took across America. His stories with the images are paired alongside on each page in his exact words. Granted, he is recalling from memories from about forty years ago, so factual accuracy may not be 100%. I do promise the tone with which he described them in is. Who knew the old man who wears dry cleaned sweatpants with creases in them daily was so rad? I suppose I’m biased.


7 is his favorite number.



Pretty sure that’s New Mexico - on the road.



Background is winter forest in New Mexico, probably Kit Carson Forest. The mannequin is in the courtyard of the neighboring house to the Maple Dodge house, part of the Dennis Hopper compound. I can’t remember the guy’s name but he was a really nice guy though. Musician. The boy is Matthew Quimby, I would say he’s 10 or 12 or something like that.



On the road again. I hope I’m right about this, but I think driving into Mexico? I think...



Ohhhhh, um... Her first name is Anita... Pretty sure it’s Rodriguez? She was a friend not a lover. But for some reason I was on top of a water tank with her kids and you know hippie! Butt naked running around. She wanted me to take her photograph. That is a cheerful photo of her! She became a famous adobe artist. She’s Hispanic. But she had some unsuccessful relationships or marriage or whatever and got very bitter.


That’s Helen with a pistol, also in the side wing. She lived with Matthew’s mother Barbara in the Hopper compound. She was an aspiring actress and we got to hang out as a couple, or item, or whatever. She went by Helen Z or Zedd but her real last name was Abernathy. She was a beautiful wild red-head and she was going to be in the film I was making ‘El Rojo’ but that fell through. I can’t remember this pianist’s name, but it’s at the LA colosseum with Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge. I think I was in the wings of the show and the pianist was very good.



This is definitely San Felipe. Where I parked the bus for a few days.



This is me in the bus. Now that picture I think was taken, I don’t know who took that, but I think Oceanside California.

That’s the compound in the background. To the left is Dennis’ house, which you can’t see. I lived there for a while.



Ahhhh, now this is funny. I can’t remember his name but this is from San Felipe. These guys, they loved the bus. They came in the bus and we played cards and drank tequila and I don’t know if they were gay or what, but they all got down to their underwear. I mean nothing happened. I couldn’t tell you what tire track that was.



Now we come to a picture of my first wife, we were still married but were no longer husband and wife by any means. This was on Toronto Island. My guess was during the Mariposa Folk Festival. Sharon Smith. No relation. She is wearing a wig. And this nice young lady I met at the Kirstofferson concert and I’m pretty sure her name is Pam Baker. She was very nice. Really lost. She kind of glommed onto me and took me everywhere. Her parents were very horrified by me as they were quite wealthy.



Albuquerque downtown! This was during the Vietnam peace protests and they teargassed us - students, protestors, or whatever. Then that’s me and Helen Z. At the Toronto festival.



That’s a staircase where I lived.



We were all just horsing around, well they were – by the fireplace. That’s Barbara Quimby’s older son. He was like 18 and a total punk. Isn’t that great how that gun looks so real. Must have been a prop of Denis’. After dinner games, I don’t know what you want to call it.


This rings a bell... That’s Helen. The girl on the left is Alexis - she’s who my wife fell in love with and took things up with.



Love this dog shot. I don’t remember what this is from.


That’s Camille, second wife, in Taos. Uhhh and that’s Camille in the Canary Islands.


Ahhh that is Nancy Folger of the Folger coffee family! She and Helen Z and Barbara Quimby, I met them all in San Felipe. Baja California. We hung out for several days and we all left, and they said you have to come to Taos and meet Dennis Hopper. He’s crazy and dadada. Then when I left Mexico I blew a piston in the bus and limped into Oceanside California and there’s a long story but I flipped a coin to go back to Toronto or to go to New Mexico. I had never been and it had it’s appeal and Helen had her appeal. I literally flipped a coin, and then I went to New Mexico.


That’s the entrance to the compound. To the left rear is where Helen lived and the right is the Maple Dodge house. Those feet are some people in San Diego. Two or more of them were conch fisherman, they would dive for conches. I met them in San Felipe and they said when I came back to California to see them, and I did. We hung out in my bus.



That is the gas tank I was sitting on with Anita, this was her little kid. Who knows if it was a boy or girl. I think that the other kid is Matthew.



This was the jerk and Helen, back stage. Then Debi in the back of the bus, actually on my bed. That was actually in Dallas at my parent’s house. Probably in ‘69 or ‘70.


Ah another picture in Baja. Sunset shot. There’s Barbara! Helen, Matthew, and that guy... I can’t remember his name. Very sad-sack kinda guy, very mournful but really sweet. He was a guitar player.




So that’s Camille, and this is in the Atlas Mountains outside of Morocco in Afghanistan or something. Okay this is Helen, I loved this series. She was fun to photograph she loved the camera.



That was one of the Mexican guys who took all his clothes off! You can see them in the driver’s seat hanging their clothes out the window. Now we’re looking at Nova Scotia - probably Lunenburg.



There are my white shoes, Victoria. My Indian choker and all velvet. That’s somewhere in the area of driving towards New Mexico. And guess what, that’s a selfie! Or maybe a hitch hiker took that, actually. I can see both my arms.


Okay, so that’s back at the Maple Dodge again. This woman here is the wife of the bass player in Kris’ band. I gave Kris, and Rita, and the band a ride in the bus to a concert then I drove them to Ottawa. The bass player said to come see him in California. And I did. I parked outside of their house for a few days, I took photos of some of their kids in a park somewhere and had fun.

That’s Nova Scotia. Then that’s me working on repairing a well.



That’s a rest area on the side of the road. The bus is an old Accadian Lines passenger bus, they ran for years. May even still be running. Some hunter bought it and he sort of fixed it up to camp in and shoot deer, then I bought it from him and tricked it out true hippie style. I think I paid $1,500 for the bus. But I gutted it and rebuilt it. Helen, comedian Helen, playing Charlie Chaplain. That’s taken in Rancho. The famous church is across the street that’s on magazines and post cards. She’s outside of Dennis’ movie theater.


Now we’re in San Felipe. That girl, she... I don’t remember her name. I saw this girl and her mother, and she saw the bus. She had to come explore. She came up to the bus and I just started taking photographs while we were talking and she was quite charming and funny. She loved the bus.



This is me and Karen Jumper, she was a Taos silversmith. This was taken in Victoria Park in Truro. She was visiting. There’s Helen again.




Back of the bus, on the road. I must have been pulled over. Actually maybe the hitch hiker was driving. That is not a Bible you see, I didn’t have a bible. Might have been an old photo album.


This is a great shot of Helen, I did a whole series with Matthew and someone else’s kid and I just chased them around while they played soccer and then I started to chase Helen and she was screaming at me to not take her picture. Then she just collapsed and said “Okay, shoot me.”


This person, the sticker in the window says New Mexico, he was one of the protestors.



This cop was staring at me and put his hands up but it was totally pleasant. This is my good buddy, I need to send you a piece I wrote for Maclean’s Magazine. That’s Sandy Spencer, he’s the one who does the wave paintings.

Shrimp boats in Baja. The wonderful kite, that was in Oceanside California.


Shot of Helen... That was moving someone’s furniture in Santa Fe I think. That’s Karen Jumper. Holding the stick up for William’s Bouvier who could jump very high in the air.



The Texas plate on the car... I don’t know who’s it was. May have just been a nice photo. That’s Camille.



More protest shots outside of U of NM.


Camille with the guy and his sister or wife in Afghanistan. There’s Pam Baker again, she asked me if I wanted to go riding and I said sure. There’s a song - Rolling Stones song “Wild Horses” and that’s why I called the bus Graceless Lady. Listen to the song, I’m pretty sure they say Graceless Lady in it.



Helen, again.



This is a selfie of me. The guy who looks like Jerry Garcia, his name was Buffalo Bob. He was a hippie who lived in a box car outside of Taos on the Rio Grande. Buffalo Bob took me to the woods and is pointing out to me where the river runs.


This little insert of the bullfight, if only I could remember where that was taken. The scenery is New Mexico.



Oh wow, so here’s Sharon with her wig. Another girlfriend of her’s that is not Alexis and I cannot remember her name at all. Don’t remember the name of the dog. The girl on the left was a lot of fun. Her name was Catty. She was married to, or lived with, some artist. She was a lot of fun. Everyone knew her and everyone liked her.





Always a ride or die, though.


Profile for Vicky Forsyth-Smith

Graceless Lady  

A personal project using my dad’s photographs (which he randomly sent me) to assemble an editorial book named after his bus. It was all blin...

Graceless Lady  

A personal project using my dad’s photographs (which he randomly sent me) to assemble an editorial book named after his bus. It was all blin...

Profile for vickygfs