Between Glam Rock and New Wave: the Lost Archive
I took these pictures in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when I was young and untrained and life in old New York was dirty and dangerous. I bounced back and forth from Philly and Manhattan, girlfriend in PA, school in NY. The people you see kissing, embracing, and staring into space were my friends and lovers. Their exposed narrative allowed me to explore emerging teenage sexuality, among other themes. We also were committed to being punks, which means that we rejected everything.
All we had was the music, the bar and what set us apart.
We drank and did drugs to kill the isolation of no future and numb the scornful looks that people gave us on the street. In turn, we scorned commercialism, big music, the hippie generation’s utopian fantasies, and the cultural paradigm around us.
“Never sell out” was the common refrain.
Yet somehow, I managed to learn something.
I studied painting at the Cooper Union and took photography classes with Larry Fink, Chris Osinski, Charles Traub and Julio Mitchell. In the end I decided to skip graduation, pass on the art world trajectory and go motorcycle racing for five years. It was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done–and maybe the most punk.
The punk movement feels too far away from me now, perhaps because the world has changed so much since then. Today it’s associated with a fashion style which really misses the context that spawned its relevancy.
Punk came on strong. But it came on before.
Before New Wave, hip hop and the sampler
before the end of the cold war
before the fall of the Berlin Wall
before Reagan and Gorbachev
before the neo cons
before the personal computer
before the internet
before cell phones
before email, text messaging and tweets
before user generated content
before music videos and downloads
before Michael Jackson made a Pepsi commercial
before we cared more about the lives of performing artists than their art
before digital photography and Facebook turned us into narcissistic voyeurs
before art as appropriation seeped out of Soho
before Photoshop and CGI made surrealism mainstream
before the technological paradigm shift that disrupted our way of living and changed how we define art, ourselves and the world.
I’m glad I kept these negatives. They helped keep punk alive for me.
I’ve named this body of work The Lost Archive because for me, punk was so quickly eclipsed by the emergence of New Wave and hip hop. Lost, because I too was lost. I struggled to understand my generation’s worldview and my own inner view, my search for artistic meaning and a platform to express it. As I grew older a sense of unfulfilled spirituality emerged in my life and led me to embrace Buddhism. My friends call me a Buddhist punk now. I think that fits.