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Monday, June 22, 2009

It All Started at Grimeys

debbie postcard

On this date in 2005, I was putting the finishing touches on the first exhibit in what would turn into a 4-year journey across the USA by way of indie record stores and rock festivals, with some bonafide art venues in-between. On June 24, 2005, the first Punk Turns 30 exhibit opened at Grimey's New and Pre-Loved Music in Nashville, TN. Much to my surprise, the Nashville Scene named the exhibit their Pick of the Week!


To my delight, my favorite man from punk rock days, Dead Boys guitarist and Ohio punk rock legend and now Nashville resident, Cheetah Chrome and his family showed up!


It was a combination of the Dead Boys and Grimey's that got this Punk Turns 30 machine rolling...

In 2004, the surviving Dead Boys reunited at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland and in another surprising move, Stiv was represented on stage by 3 larger than life photos... of mine!  Although I was completely involved in exhibiting photos of Stiv and the Dead Boys for the concert, and I knew the show flyer was one of my backstage shots of Stiv with Dee Dee Ramone... I honestly had no idea Stiv's image on stage would be courtesy of me.

Get Hip Records founder, Gregg Kostelich was another key player in this journey.  That night, Gregg told me what those now-giant images of Stiv meant to him and similarly-minded musicians in the Midwest back in the day.

I felt bolstered to carry on something that I'd been wanting to do for years.

Everyone who does something a little bit off the beaten path has supporters who tell them that they should write a book, make a movie, or have a reality show based on whatever thing it is they do.  I'm no different.  For years... ever since the first time a magazine printed one of my punk photos (back in the 70s), or one of my photos ended up as a record sleeve (from back in the 70s), I've been urged to make a book and show in galleries.

stiv pix beachland
Three of my Stiv images at the Beachland Ballroom, Dead Boys Reunion

All easier said than done!  For years, every time punk rock or one of my subjects would celebrate some kind of anniversary, I would make the rounds and hear the rejections... the 10th Anniversary of Punk... the 20th... various calendar markers came and went with a punk rock retrospective deemed not worthy/interesting/whatever.  And then there was the Dead Boys reunion... the 25th Anniversary edition of Stiv's solo record Disconnected... all served to help me connect my dots and Punk Turns 30 began a short gestation period and emerged in February of 2005, with the traveling photo exhibit getting its feet wet as a merch vendor at the 2005 Horizontal Action Blackout Festival, with the Grimey's exhibit following a month later.

These photos, all taken between 1976 - 1985, representing my college years and my post-college expatriate life (in London) and I have been on tour ever since.  I've been able to reconnect with old friends and make many new ones along the way.

Me & Clem, 2004
With Clem Burke at the Underground Garage Festival... friends since Blondie days... 1977!

tk and monsieur
In Memphis, I got to meet the awesome & legendary Jeff Evans who performed at my opening party at Goner Fest 2

Being able to exhibit at Goner Fest 2 was a big deal to me. The whole Goner ethos represents what kind of stamp my generation of punk (from the 70s) left to the next generation (90s punks). Also, as the calendar did march forward to a real generation and epoch defining kind of birthday for punk, more eyes looked our way.

The 30th Anniversary of Punk in 2006 opened doors for me and others from the 70s. Filmmaker Allison Anders organized a fantastic slide-show presentations of three LA Punk Photographers with the emphasis on the HERS, letting us tell our side of the punk rock story in an intimate panel during her Don't Knock the Rock Film Festival, which that year debuted the long-awaited documentary on Gun Club founder, the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce. For more on that, read this.


Jeffrey was one of my friends who was the most encouraging, not only to me, but to others, famously Pleasant and Kid Congo Powers, cheering us on and challenging us to make our dreams realities, and our fantasies goals.

Kid Congo and Pleasant - Jeffrey Lee Pierce turned them into performers

As I traveled and did more of these shows and worked with experienced and accomplished people such as Allison Anders, and authors such as Holly George Warren, in whose Punk 365 I have a few photos, I learned how to apply what I learned throughout my film and television career to my first love - the still image.

The Cramps - this shot is in Holly George Warren's book, Punk 365

So, four years later, on the anniversary of being chosen as the event of the week... some of those very same pictures I exhibited in public for the first time, at Grimey's, are going on the auction block at Christie's in their Pop Culture Auction which will be held on June 23. I think it is an auspicious coincidence.

Punk turned 30, and now punk images are collectible as Art.  I found my way into that milieu thanks to the fans of this blog, to the writers who helped spread the word about my tour, to the writers who used my pictures to illustrate their books and articles, and thanks to Gregg Kostelich, who introduced me to the Metropolis Gallery's Angelo Madrigale who got Christie's to pay attention to me at the same time I was trying to track down my old friend Johan Kugelberg who was working on the punk rock auction...

It makes me genuinely happy that in (most of) our lifetimes, those of us who were ridiculed for the art we created are being celebrated.  Seeing Dee Dee Ramone accept his Rock n Roll Hall of Fame introduction was one of the wildest, weirdest and gratifying moments I can think of. Ours is a generation that by and large rejects the Institutions, the hegemony and the mainstream... but at the same time, while making our mark as outsiders who knew we were outside, we like it that our work... our endeavors and efforts are recognized, and the fact that we could speak to our own generation effectively is recognized. None of us, I don't think, hates money, because things like money make it possible to continue to make art and of course, to live. What we hate is mediocrity and moreso, the rewarding of mediocrity!

Punk rockers... we are the kid who proclaimed "the emperor has no clothes!" I feel like that a lot... Hans Christian Andersen never told us in his tale what became of that truth-telling child. All we know is that the unclothed Emperor continued to hold his head high and walk about unclothed.

Some things never change.

large darby
Darby Crash... bid on him at Christie's

1 comment:

Emily said...

well congrats to you! I think your work is phenomenal and deserving of the praise it's gotten. And all right, I get a giggle every time something from punkland ends up at Christies ;)