A Mini Utopia: Jim Goldberg’s Portraits from Bonnaroo

Jim Goldberg—Magnum
Jim Goldberg—Magnum

Last weekend, Jim Goldberg, fresh from his two week Postcards from America road trip, traveled to the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. While there he focused on soaking up the scene and making portraits of the people at the festival. LightBox presents a selection of these photographs from this mini utopia, described by Goldberg as “this amazing array of really bad tattoos, food you shouldn’t eat and really loaded people having a really good time—and incredible music.”

This is a place where people are totally carefree—”laying in the dust and dirt, dancing very late into the night, sleeping out. A place where people are proud of their sunburns,” he says. Goldberg noted a proliferation of wet t-shirts (from the waters of a psychedelic giant mushroom fountain)—”and all the people you don’t want to see naked walking around naked.”

There is a continuum between generations, both in the crowd—which ranges from older hippies to jocks to business people—and the musicians, varying from the septuagenarian Wanda Jackson to the New York rockers the Strokes and more eclectic Brazilian dancers and world music singers. A performance by Omar Souleyman (the most popular performer out of Syria) had hippies hula hooping and practicing yoga in the crowd; others got high and drank beer.

In French slang, the festival’s name translates to “a really good time”—something Goldberg experienced and witnessed among the people he photographed at Bonnaroo, a true mini utopia.

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