Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The Waiting is the Best Part
AS you know by now, I am taking a selection of images from my punk rock archives on tour as Unguarded Moments: Backstage and Beyond.
There's a lot more to the "unguarded moment" than just catching someone off guard or out of the spotlight's glare when they can present to the camera an image with which the audience is comfortable and familiar.
I have been privy to so many behind-the-scenes events throughout my life and career that I take it all in stride... but most people never see the machinations, so I present them in exhibit form, hoping to give audiences something a little out of the ordinary.
Its not easy being recognized... whether its because you are famous, or because you just don't look like every body else, it is a bit strange to be accosted by strangers who believe they know what you're all about based on some superficial observations.
The photograph above, of Billy Idol in LAX, on his way to the plane that will take him back home to London sums it all up for me... its one of the ultimate unguarded moments. Besides everyone in the frame being unaware of being photographed, it also speaks to a time when airport security was more relaxed... when one could accompany their friends to the departure gates, and one could photograph the whole process; you can't do either nowadays.
Most of my body of work from punk rock days also represents a time where no handlers or other intermediaries stood between a fan and a musician. Of course, Pleasant and I were doing a fanzine, Lobotomy in which we published the results of our going out, hanging out and listening to records for all the dozens of people who paid a big 75 cents to read about it... but we weren't The Press, we were more like the grapevine and even more like documentarians, although it would take 30 years for anyone to consider us that...
Still... it represents a different time and a completely different culture. Being a fly on the wall of Joan Jett's apartment when Billy Idol came to party and simply seeing who was there is worlds apart from standing outside any Rodeo Drive boutique waiting to snap a still of the starlet of the day exiting a shopping spree... the whole "cult of personality" has gone overboard... I guess we're in the Baroque period of our postmodernity... after all, the layers of reference in pop culture are now invoking simulacra rather than source material more and more.
Before he was Darby Crash: Bobby Pyn rehearsing, 1977
Gone, I believe is the excitement that comes with waiting for insight and glimpses of the quiet moments in recording studios and rehearsal rooms... even maternity wards (not that I've ever photographed that)... every moment of a musician's life can be put on display, is put on display and immediately posted for the world to see instantly... for me, effectively negating the fun of the mystery, the wondering what its like and the waiting for a magazine, a record, or a newspaper to come out in order to see what will be revealed... the joys of discovery have been translated into the calling up of data that pops up immediately on your computer screen.
That's part of the double-edged sword... of course, we can't wait... but I think that waiting is a lost art.
Stiv Bators listens to playback with David Quinton, 1979
I relished the drawn out excitement that began with seeing "in the studio" photos in magazines, complete with descriptions of what the record was going to sound like... song titles... tales of recording studio escapades and on-location diaries. All that information just made me anticipate a record even more. But these days, there's a rush to upload song samples on to websites... its good and its bad.
Its bad because we want more and then more and there's really only so much you can produce. It kind of makes our culture not just a commodity, but a disposable one.
And all that rhetoric is why I still take pictures with film in a camera I've used since 1973. That's why I print my own pictures whenever possible, because there's nothing like the magic of watching an image appear on a piece of glossy paper you're swirling around in a chemical bath.
Just a reminder that you can buy any of the photos you see on Punk Turns 30 - just drop us an email!