Tuesday, January 18, 2005

INTRODUCTION TO THIS EXHIBIT, and Photos: DAVID BOWIE, 1976 and 2004 , JAYNE COUNTY 1979

LOST? Go to the PUNKS & PROVOCATEURS BLOG INDEX . List of 250 BANDS and SUBJECTS on this site BY NAME with DIRECT LINKS.All photos and text © Linda Dawn Hammond / IndyFoto.com 2010
The intention of this project is NOT to present an objective overview of punk from the perspective of an unobtrusive observer. I was part of, not apart from, the scene as I documented it. Instead I wish to present my personal progression within the various overlapping milieus I encountered as a photographer throughout the late '70s and '80s, more or less continuing until today. I assume, even as I begin to print, that a heavier emphasis will be on the '80s, which were for me an exceptional time. Full of creative energy, travel and encounters with wonderfully expressive and unique people.

Things began to dissipate in the '90s. Perhaps life eventually wore us down- as youth gave way, the drugs, alcohol, sex, excessive partying and living on the edge of poverty started to exact its toll. People began to die- of hitherto unheard of diseases such as Aids, suddenly of drug overdoses, or insidiously of liver disease brought on by alcohol and Hep C. Some friends went mad. Others were murdered. There were also those who had only flirted with the scene briefly, eventually slipping back to the suburbs to reclaim their rightful destinies. Or mature, if you prefer. Poverty has its appeal only so long. Living on the dole began idealistically enough as a rejection of consumerism and refusal to conform. In effect, a convenient sort of arts grant for those stuck in the middle of a recession. It eventually lost its glamour. Long termers became lifers- unable to enter any job market now through lack of experience, not choice. No longer perceived of as youthful renegades fucking the system, but aging losers.

I used to joke with my friend Charles that we'd end up all together in an old folks home for punks- comparing each other's fading tattoos, swapping stories of past exploits in the mosh pit and such... but it isn't going to happen. Poor Charles OD'd face down in a bathroom, while his young punk needle buddies frantically searched the Plateau for an adrenaline shot, as if to re-enact the scene in Pulp Fiction. (Their search included the hair dressing salon Charles worked at... what pathetic idiots!) Life did not imitate art and there was no resurrection-- they should have dialed 911 instead.

At any rate, it was a minority of us who refused to give up, and clung on until it was no longer pretty. Fortunately, punk was never supposed to be pretty, except unto ourselves- the anti-cute, and we thought we were gorgeous to the extreme. But punk was classified from the start (by the media) as a youth movement catering to 15 year olds, which left us very little room to grow up or old in. It’s too bad, because decades later I still feel the same inside and what drew me to punk is still viable. The social and political conditions which provoked my rage and defiance likewise remain unaltered, and have in fact worsened. I have not yet given up the fight, but perhaps can no longer do it from within the group. Which, for me, exists no longer. It’s back to the beginning- before I found punk. Playing solitaire.

So, is punk dead? Cynical people way back in the late 70s proclaimed it thus, at a time when many were only just discovering its charms. The originators of punk evidently wanted it declared dead before it got appropriated by the strip malls - an understandable sentiment. Punk, however, did not die, then or now. It was appropriated, as feared, but also evolved into many other subversive subgroups- equally valid. Punk began as an expression of nihilism and anti-intellectualism, and evolved rapidly into a politicized movement as disaffected artists, students and intellectuals joined its ranks.

It may have become a recognizable fashion, but didn’t begin that way. Look at early photos of a CBGB crowd. There are few you would recognize as ‘punks’, though many were. It developed its distinct look from a hybrid of anti-fashions, which it readily pilfered and rearranged to shock, disgust, disturb and (unintentionally) titillate. Bits and pieces of fetish gear, army uniforms, tutus, leather biker jackets, and just about anything black, ripped and torn. Found art as fashion. Much more fun than buying it readymade at Wal-Mart.

Punk spoke to me on a visceral, immediate level, which allowed expression of the seething frustrations I felt within. It may have appeared violent to the uninitiated, but the majority of people I knew whom it attracted were outsiders, loners and often inherently shy. We needed, used punk in order to take the leap- landing in the furthest extreme position, as an act of refusal and in defiance of societal norms.

Once family no longer performed that function, "punk" was the first and perhaps only place I felt I actually belonged, within a unit rather than alone. Growing up as an adolescent in the pre-punk 70s had been a deadening, alienating experience. Looking back at the wilder times of the 60s, which had revolutionized attitudes towards sex and politics, the ‘70s were by comparison a tepid bath of banal music, safe opinions and ugly synthetic clothes. Boring.

The only people in my high school who were creating a niche of their own in real time were a handful of Glam kids. The boy whose locker was next to mine was an outsider like me- but he was severely ostracized by all for being the only openly gay kid in our school. He was a small, skinny, sensitive soul with a penchant for David Bowie and nail polish. We became friends and it was he who first introduced me to Bowie’s music and lyrics, with its politics of sexual "otherness". From there I developed my theory that embracing androgyny was the key to overcoming sexual barriers in this society. (Ha!)

In Grade 12 I wrote a paper for my Canadian Family class entitled, "The Gay in Society". Ostensibly to research it, my first boyfriend (a rocker) and I visited various seedy gay bars, where we drank underage as our method of observing the "lifestyle". I also interviewed a writer at "Body Politic"*, a notorious gay magazine, whom I invited to speak to my class. He agreed, then reneged.

My presentation sparked murmurs of protest from my horrified classmates, in part due to my assertion that gays would one day be allowed to adopt children. (Visionary for 1974!) My essay "partner" / boyfriend suddenly stood up red-faced and disavowed all knowledge of or input into the project, thus leaving me alone to face the onslaught of hostility and homophobia. His exact words were, I recall, "I had no idea she was going to say any of this. I didn’t write it. These aren’t my ideas." Our teacher found the admission, well, illuminating. He failed the class while I received an A (which also stood for "Abuse" the rest of the school year!)

When I later began studying journalism at Carleton U., my continued interest in Bowie led me to volunteer to review his show for the school paper. Lacking a photographer, they sent me along with rudimentary instructions, a 35mm camera, 500 mm lens and a tripod. I fell immediately in love with photography, not to mention the prospect of gaining entry to shows I couldn’t afford. I quit journalism, enrolled in photography at Ryerson and thus began my lifelong career.

press linda

So this explains why I intend to open and close this exhibit with a photo of Bowie- then and now. It all began there, starting a chain of events which led me to document the people in this show. Punks and provocateurs. Rebels all.

bowie 76



Rebel ! Rebelle!
DAVID BOWIE at
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Feb., 1976

bowie 04
DAVID BOWIE
London, Ontario, May 14, 2004

earl slick bowie 04

Earl Slick, long time guitarist with DAVID BOWIE
London, Ontario, May 14, 2004
Go to MORE BOWIE

* 4 years later Body Politic published my first rockn'roll photo in a magazine, of WAYNE / JAYNE COUNTY, in what became one of their last issues before the magazine was closed down by the Toronto morals police.

Two unpublished photos from Jayne County’s performance at the Edge in Toronto on August 22, 1979. The poster behind her is from the time she was a he, and known as, "Wayne County and the Electric Chairs".



jayne county 1979
JAYNE COUNTY
jayne county 1979
Eliot Michaels... Jayne's original bass player w/ Queen Elizabeth, then later in the 70' he became lead guitarist w/ the Electric Chairs.



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About Me

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Linda Dawn Hammond,MFA, AKA Dawn One, is a photographer and journalist. As a teenager in 1976, she began covering music events for various magazines. During the late 70s she became involved in punk, documenting an insider's perspective of the music, political and social scenes in Montreal, Toronto, NYC, the UK and Europe, included in this blog as photographs and commentary. Linda Dawn Hammond continues to work as a photojournalist, specializing in music, art and politics. As a fine arts photographer, she has exhibited in galleries been and published widely.