When 80s Punk hypnotised me

Admittedly I was a bit too young for 80s punk the first time around. That didn’t stop me falling in love with the whole concept when I was in my teens. Back then I’d have never owned up to the fact that what first snared me was the photos. You see, I was young, I was trying to fit in and I was in a band. We were doing it for the music. Or so I told everyone.

Now, I can’t lie, I idolised the music and still do to a certain extent. Big Black, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Minutemen, Talking Heads, New York Dolls, Black Flag, Minor Threat… the list could go on and on. I’m not here to list my early music influences, though. Point is the music settled the deal for my young, angry, confused self but the aesthetics are really what pulled me in.

I fell for those old, raw and powerful photos of the bands and crowds; most of which were in black and white. They were often imperfect photos, and in a way echoed the music and the passion. I feel like it was a time when the photographers at the shows were a real part of the movement. It wasn’t just a job and it wasn’t just someone who wanted to work in the press. I remember looking up some of the photo credits from old magazines and a lot of them weren’t even professional photographers.

Today we’re enveloped in the future and the digital overload of imagery and accessibility to photography. There have always been people who photograph shows because they love the scene and they want to move with the crowd and the music. Now, I feel like “live photography” is a genre that people try to use to break into the world of professional photography. That’s all fine, we have to get our breaks somehow, but there is often a lack of emotion in today’s live music photos.

This is the very reason I’ve shied away from live music photography since I walked out of the music scene five years ago. When I quit my last band I tried to shoot a few shows but I was terrified of being “just another paparazzi” as my friend and band mate always used to yell at the guys with their flashes going off ten to the dozen. I don’t want to come home from whatever show it might be and look at the photos and see no life in them.

What I loved most about the photography of the early punk movement (whether in the UK, NY or California) was the sheer imperfection of the developed pictures. It mirrored the music perfectly; noisy, dirty, scratchy blown out and blurry photos. The passion from all involved tore through the page and grabbed you by the retina and darred you to pay attention.

So, last night when I was leaving to go and photograph the live show I’d agreed to cover I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t worry about the quality of my photos and I would do whatever it took to really feel what was happening in the club and on stage. Luckily, the five acts performing (3 live raw Canadian Hip Hop acts and 2 Cabaret performers) were spilling with a heat that refused to be ignored.


Still, I don’t think I quite got it and I’m not sure I ever will. A part of me longs to be back in the music world regardless of the painful memories I have of that rough and tumble scene. If I ever did go back I’d take my camera with me and I’m sure I could capture that magic and intensity that deserves to be spilled across the pages of the stagnant music press out there. For now I’m just an outsider looking in, so much is different here in the future with our digital cameras and instant gratification that can be altered and saved and deleted and nothing will matter if we fuck it up. So many people just want glossy perfection.


Not me. I long for the filthy music photography of the 80s. And here you can see my pale imitation of it.


I say, bring on the imperfect photography. And I don’t necessarily even mean the “lofi” movement of Lomos and Holgas and all those other cheap cameras and film. I just want to scream let go of your inhibitions, your expectations, your obsession with technical prowess.


Look beyond the performance and into the souls of those around you. There is emotion in every corner of every venue.


And I’m not just talking about the bands, either.

This post was very serious! That’s what happens when I wait until late at night and play Explosions in the Sky really loud.

Last night’s show was Beats N Babes at the Media Club, Downtown Vancouver: a mix of Hip Hop and Beautiful Women currently jumping around BC and possibly the rest of Canada in the Fall. Find more info here.

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  1. Posted July 31, 2009 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    I love it. I’m still so new to the shutter stock game, but I’m already SO frustrated with everything having to be perfect.

    I do, however, want whatever lens it is that you shoot with. (/contradiction)

  2. Posted August 1, 2009 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I really like it when you write longer entries :)

  3. cherry
    Posted August 1, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    (@Samantha) Thanks! I used the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 and 28mm f/2.8 at this show.

    I also think some photography and styles deserve perfection and as photographers we should aim for that, but then again like I said this kind of show photography should be more about the passion and the energy than the technical abilities of the person behind the camera. It really all depends on exactly what we’re shooting, I guess. There’s always a certain beauty in imperfection regardless of the genre some things will always call for a certain level of perfection but it’s up to us to challenge the areas we think need more reality??

  4. cherry
    Posted August 1, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    (@Erika) I’m working on making more time so I can write regularly. We’ll see what happens! Haha.

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