|Brad Elterman, Joan Jett, Milk Gallery, 1978|
But more than just a sound, punk rock had a look. In the punk scene of the 1970s and ’80s, both onstage and off, style was just as important as which bands you went to see. Attitude was the greatest accessory. Amid the sea of leather jackets and tight pants, the punk aesthetic was captured by daring photographers along for the ride. Here are a few who saw it all.
Chris Stein had an all-access pass to the world around the band’s frontwoman, Debbie Harry. More than just a bandmate and a lover, Stein, his camera in hand, helped create her signature image. Thanks to his photographs, Harry became the face of punk and new wave, and a female fashion icon. Part Hollywood starlet, part Bowery vagabond, she proved that a punk rock attitude could be found even in a glamorously dolled-up blonde. Stein’s photographs of Harry range in style from street photography to portraiture and everywhere in between, and the recurring cast of supporting characters represent a veritable who’s who of ’70s and ’80s music legends. Onstage or in the bedroom, Harry’s unapologetic demeanor, more than just her glam facade, always comes through.
photos capture the utopian glamour of the West Coast’s scene in the
1970s and ’80s. From Sunset Boulevard to the Santa Monica Pier, Elterman
used the sunny backdrop of his native Southern California as the
setting for his snapshots of some of the era’s most recognizable rock
and pop stars. Though the photos often have the feeling of paparazzi
snaps or publicity shoots, the real power lies in their intimacy. Like
the protagonist in Almost Famous, Elterman started out as a
teenager with a passion for music, straddling the line between
professional and fan, never quite revealing to his subject which role he
was inhabiting in any given moment. This duality comes across most
distinctly in his photos of Joan Jett and the Runaways. With her black
eye makeup and black leather jacket decked out in safety pins and
badges, Jett stands in stark contrast to the glitz of Hollywood. Yet
Elterman’s photos of her and her bandmates aren’t just about their
grit—there’s also an alluring softness captured in their expressions.
It’s clear that Elterman was there through it all, documenting the
Runaways from their humble beginnings in LA’s suburbs to their packed
gigs at the Whiskey A Go Go.
|Debbie Harry, 1977, Milk Gallery|
Prior to the publication of his 2002 photo book, Jim Jocoy had hardly picked up his camera in 20-plus years. Jocoy became involved in the budding California punk scene as a student at UC Santa Cruz in the 1970s. After he dropped out, he spent his days working at a copy store and his nights hauling his camera to punk shows to photograph musicians and fans alike. His snapshots of San Francisco and LA punks capture a lighthearted energy that stands in contrast to the hard-edged grit of the New York and U.K. scenes. His images, mostly solo shots taken in and around music venues, read like baseball cards of punk rock’s MVPs or a pictorial document of the era’s most innovative fashion. Jocoy’s book of punk photos, We’re Desperate, is in many ways a tribute to the women of punk: Its title, for instance, is derived from a 1981 track by X, the electric LA band co-fronted by a woman. His photographs of women—including portraits of X’s female singer, Exene Cervenka, as well as anonymous, enthusiastic fans—present them as more than a subgroup within punk, but as vital members of the movement.
Landes, Nora. "These Photographers Captured Blondie, Joan Jett, and the Women of Punk." Artsy. 2016. Accessed January 03, 2017. https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-these-photographers-captured-blondie-joan-jett-women-punk.