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The Stanford University Libraries have acquired the photographic archives of "Bay Area Video Arcades: Photographs by Ira Nowinski," 1981-1982." The collection consists of approximately 650 35mm images, with contact sheets, as well as prints and digitized images for approximately 50 selected images.
Ira Nowinski is an acclaimed documentary photographer who has created extraordinary photo essays in a variety of areas of recent history, including North Beach in San Francisco, the evacuation of elderly citizens in San Francisco's SOMA district, aspects of Southeast Asian, Jewish, and Native American culture, and an important photographic study of Holocaust Memorials.
The Bay Area Video Arcades photographs were taken in 1980 and 1981 at several locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. The locations include the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, the Exploratorium (site of the 1981 Atari Asteroids competition), and other arcades in Oakland and San Francisco. One might think of these photographs as companions to Geoffrey and Elizabeth Loftus' classic essay from the same period, "The Arcade Subculture," first published as a chapter in their Mind at Play: The Psychology of Videogames (Basic Books, 1983). They wrote that the video arcades of the 1980s served a similar function as the drive-in theaters of an earlier generation. They are "not only ... novel but they are also a breeding ground for social interaction They’re places where social contact is made In a frlendly atmosphere and where frlendshlps are formed. They constitute the foundation of a subculture with its own norms, values and patterns of communications." Loftus & Loftus pointed out, for example, that the Arcade was a place where it was perfectly acceptable to stare at what another person was doing (playing an arcade game), without speaking to them. Ira Nowinski's photographs capture this sense of a place for the congregation of a new subculture, one that perhaps seems a bit strange, but one that has also become familiar with the passage of time.
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