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If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist its another nonconformist who doesn't conform to a standards of nonconformity - Bill Vaughan

It feels like tracking the peace symbol was my destiny. I began photographing the peace symbol at the antiwar rallies I attended in the late 60's at the height of the Vietnam War. As a father a of young family then, living in southern California, I wasn't apart of the hippie movement that was sweeping the state and the country, but I did have strong feelings about the war. I vividly remember my WWII childhood in the rural San Fernando Valley- the air raid sirens, the rationings, and the flags in the windows of families who had service members overseas. Fear was a vivid fixture in my childhood, even after the war ended. With the 1950's came a different kind of war, the Cold war, and with it the threat of nuclear annihilation. The air raid drills went on, and a new, larger terror replaced the fears of the WWII era.

By the mid 1960's Jannice and I had our first child and the country was involved in a new conflict. But the Vietnam War did not rouse the patriotic fever of WWII. At about that time, I became friends with my neighbor, Ted Schoenman. Ted's son Ralph had been Bertrand Russell's private secretary and eventually became the director of Bertrand Russell Peace foundation. Ralph had also been instrumental in organizing the Committee of 100 Against Nuclear War- a strident ban-the-bomb group in London in the early 1960's.

Though I didn't know it at the time, all of this connected back to my interest in the creation of the peace symbol. Ralph's information filtered down through his father, who in turn opened my eyes to a broader political world view, beyond what I had previously learned from my local newspaper and national television. Soon I had developed a passion for politics and concern about the war. With the 1968 Presidential election around the corner, I slapped a Eugene McCarthy bumper sticker on my VW Squareback, paid 25 cents for my first peace symbol button and let my hair grow a little longer.

Painted Wood Peace

Like a lot of other young Americans, I took to the street to protest the growing involvement in Vietnam. At each one of the demonstrations I attended, the rallying symbol was that circle with what looked like a drooping tree inside it. The peace symbol. Everywhere I looked- on posters, medallions, earrings , cars, graffiti. That circle design had become a magnet, an icon for the counterculture and the anti-war movement.

What has surprised me in the decades since is that the peace continues to exert almost hypnotic appeal. Its become the a rally cry for almost any group working for social change.

With my background in design, I'm fascinated by the simplicity of the peace symbol and how people have used it worn it and adapted it. Each iteration of the symbol seems unique, because is bears the artistic touch of the person replicating it. The fact that the symbol is easy to recall and draw- just a circle with three lines in it- might account for some of its worldwide recognition, but I think it's more than that.

I was fortunate enough to correspond with Gerald Holtom, the symbol's designer, ten years before his death in 1985. He critiqued my original notes on the history of the symbol, which I have now culminated in this book. I continue to correspond with is children and a nephew. They have all been generous in sharing their family photos, dairies, letters and notes, and memories. His life story and symbol's are both inextricably linked.

Certainly, my own life has become intertwined with the symbol and with the pressing need to tell its story, a story I have been documenting through my own photographs, press clippings, and primary sources for decades now. On the 50th anniversary of the peace symbol, I can only hope that it will continue to inspire, and inform generations to come. - Ken Kolsbun

Make Love Not War

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