Robert Moved into Project Artaud in the earlier 1970’s. He was on the first and second floor, Next door to Bill Fein, who was manufacturing organic soap for the Presidio.
He met Luis Del Gado and Pico Sanchez in Mexico City when he was going to school. Pico moved in with him for a while when he first arrived here.
When Dennis moved into 123, Milo was staying in a loft, hung by Doug Dahlstrom, before the big fire in the gallery. The gallery had recently been sandblasted. Putting up the wall between the gallery and 123 was Dennis’s responsibility, as a condition of him getting the space. Avery, with a little help from Pacelli, put up the wall for Dennis.
After the wall was done, J. Harley Simon had the first photography show in the gallery, which was called the American Can Company Collective, at first. That Halloween the big building party moved from the theater into the gallery. It was the first of many.
News and UNHCR
Robert Pacelli studied film and video in college, and got his break into the news business by working at the local public access stations. He worked everywhere, making his way around the news channels. In his travels, he befriended a woman in Orange County who became the head of UNHCR, United Nation High Command for Refugees. A few months later she offered him a job in Switzerland, working to publicize the plight of the refugees.
The UNHCR was uncovering all kinds of horror stories of refugees from Bosnia to Somalia. Most of It was pretty awful. When they first discovered the left-over mine fields in Bosnia, he was sent him to shoot in the fields, where he found himself stepping carefully onto the footsteps of the man in front of him.
Bob’s most exciting high moment came in 1989 when he found himself unexpectedly covering the return of Winnie Mandella to Johannesburg up close and personal. Nelson Mandella was still in prison with the ANC. As he was entering the country Pacelli found himself in a tight spot with airport security. They didn’t like his UN papers and wanted documents for all his camera equipment. Not knowing what else to do, he picked up his camera, aimed it at the guards, grabbed his gear, and slowly backed out onto the tarmac, where he bumped into Winnie Mandella’s entourage. He was able to exit with them, and get the best footage of Winnie’s return.
The UNHCR job set Robert up with a lot of connections. He does a lot of shooting abroad and has won his share of awards. He’s been to China four or five times. He shot pandas and butterflies for the Discovery Channel, while on location for CNN. In spite of all this, he still has an interest in personal stories. One of his oldest buddies has had a pretty exciting life and Robert decided to shoot a film about him.
Sony had given Pacelli some time with a brand new HD camera and he was keen to check it out and practice a bit before going off on his next Disney assignment. He was looking for a small project. He decided to make Dennis Breit that project.
After years of ups and downs, living the life most people dream of, making big money, spending it, loosing it, going from riches to rags and back again, Dennis Breit wound up driving a cab in San Francisco. Pacelli took a look his life as a taximan, met some of his riders, and decided this is a story worth telling.
Interviewing the riders, he saw the connection between them and Dennis. There is a little bit of them in Dennis, and a little bit of Dennis in all of us. Our foibles make us human. We all have problems. Some people handle them better than others. And some people hide them better than others.
So… you lucky souls out there who remain under the radar, count your blessings and realize that you lucky souls.
Links to some videos: