V. Vale, Tireless Counterculture Chronicler, Releases First-Ever Photo Book at City Lights

V. Vale, the tireless counterculture chronicler behind RE/Search Publications, is a fount of knowledge and opinion on creative transgressors spanning a vast range of media and time.

As the editor of inky tabloids Search & Destroy and RE/Search, Vale documented the inception of San Francisco punk and its splinters into industrial, noise and mail art subcultures, always minding the underground’s literary progenitors. More recently his conversations with figures such as Bruce Conner and Lydia Lunch have fueled a question-and-answer pocketbook series.

Today, RE/Search stands as one of the longest-running independent publishers of its kind, and Vale and his merchandise remain a welcome fixture of local book fairs, zine fests and art openings.

Yet little of Vale’s photography from this journey, a body of work estimated at more than 100,000 images, has been seen by the public until recently.

Last year, a small selection of his prints exhibited in Terminal Punk, a group of show at Classic Cars West in Oakland. Now, more than 75 color photographs by Vale—including shots of William Burroughs, Kathy Acker and Survival Research Laboratories—appear in his latest RE/Search-published title, Underground Living.

On Sunday, Sept. 8, 5pm, Vale marks the release of Underground Living at City Lights Booksellers (where he was working when he founded Search & Destroy in 1977) with a conversation with science fiction author Rudy Rucker, who wrote the book’s introduction. Rucker asks in the foreword, “How did this unassuming man enter into so many strange subcultures?”

As Vale himself writes in the book, “In these photos, taken all over the world (ahem, as I knew it), is perhaps a transient glimpse of what it’s like to live an ‘underground’ life. Which calls to mind that disturbing thought by J.G. Ballard: ‘If it wasn’t recorded, it didn’t happen.’” —Sam Lefebvre

September 8, 2019

City Lights Booksellers
261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco

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