Wednesday, January 26, 2005

On music photography, The Edge, 1978 / 79. Photos:ULTRAVOX '1979, Photos:The MODS 1979

On Music Photography…

Yesterday I had to justify to a musician friend of mine why the central theme of the show was NOT going to be exclusively band photos. He believes this is what people want to see- not photos of unknown punks. He actually thought that I must be under exterior pressure of some kind, to concentrate on the people in the scene. Portraying images of only the famous is not a tenet of documentary photography. The music was an important part of punk, but in terms of defining it- it didn’t begin and end there. My earlier photos (late 1970s) are mostly bands and backstage, but once I moved to Montreal in '82, the social side became more intense and interesting.

Shooting bands on stage is an art which requires a great sense of timing, but can be creatively limiting for the photographer, as the stage and lighting is literally set. Today the situation is even more stifling than in the past. We are restricted to shooting only the first 2 or 3 songs, allegedly to protect the band’s "image’, and often confined to a certain vantage position, with no flash allowed, and so forth. Whereas in the past I often had no problem shooting backstage, this is now generally forbidden, even with an all access pass. Band managers and corporations such as Clear Channel control and dictate what will become our remembered musical history and believe me, it will be decidedly sterile.

Another point is that the format of the stage itself sets the band apart from what was their milieu- who automatically become "The Audience", and if fan adoration ever hits a peak, undergo a further metamorphosis into "The Other". It places the band on an artificial pedestal, bathed in dedicated, often ethereal light. Some musicians have recognized the uncomfortable political and religious ramifications of this, and chosen to merge with their audiences, physically descending the stage or stage-diving.

suicidal tendencies

Punks are us!

It is always interesting to see candid backstage shots of now famous or forgotten bands- I don't deny it, and intend including them as well. Hey, I took them. But as much as musicians have redefined punk around their image, this doesn't leave much room for the people who developed what became the look and attitude, but were not necessarily known for it. This exhibit is for the punks who spray painted political slogans in anonymity, risking arrest and police beatings. Who created art, redefined dance, held impromptu performance based "invasions" of abandoned buildings, and squatted slums and consulates alike. Who drank, danced and fucked (!) excessively in small, dark enclaves of punk, which were for a brief time happily forbidden to the uninitiated. Who walked down the street wearing green hair, spikes and piercings, when it was truly a shocking statement and an affront to "respectability." Punk, for those who committed to it full time back in the day, meant that you were in effect unemployable and had made the conscious stand to remain outside of society. There were so few jobs in the 80s that employers could be more exacting in terms of dictating how far their employees need comply to demands of conformity. People forget that, as the outer "signatures" become appropriated and commonplace. Ripped and reassembled "punk" t-shirts are mass manufactured under nefarious social conditions in China and elsewhere, to be marketed in Walmart to would-be punks, who can then go for coffee at Starbucks and be served by staff wearing face piercings. Where’s the point?
So this exhibit is also for the punks who don’t look like punks, but more importantly, think and act like punks. My definition, of course!


I remember being surprised that the punks I encountered in the squats and anarchist cells of Europe in ’84 were so low-key and unrecognizable. They explained that it was an important evasive tactic, to be able to blend in with the crowd and avoid capture after one of their "actions’. Not just to dodge the police, but certain hostile people in the crowd itself. After I was singled out in a Zurich demo with my bright red hair, clubbed and then chased across a field by riot police shooting rubber bullets, I recognized the inherent wisdom of this! (There’s more to that story, which I’ll include when I get to those photos later in this project!) The Zurich model reminds me somewhat of the present Black Bloc, though the former were more organized and cohesive as a group. Which may not in the final analysis be good traits as it permits infiltration.

Meanwhile, it’s back to the ‘70s. 1979 Toronto. The Edge

the edge
Amazing poster! It was lost for 7 years and just resurfaced yesterday! I shot several of the bands on the list- the rest I'm still kicking myself for missing. What's particularly amusing is how small the Police font is compared to, for example, Rough Trade!

I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of the owner of the Edge (no- not the Garys), an important alternative venue in Toronto during the 70s. He made a deal with me- I'd print him two photos of any event I chose, in exchange for- film, free entry to any gig and unlimited access to the upstairs "back stage". I missed out on more great bands than I care to consider- but the ones I did shoot were amazing. The most memorable one I missed was The Police- I’d heard them that day on the radio and told the owner not to bother, as they’d "never go anywhere’. Perhaps not for me, but I now recognize that my taste in music is not a prediction of commercial success!

I did eventually shoot the Police, at the Police Picnic in Montreal in '83. No backstage access at this point of their career. I went for the TALKING HEADS, but if you are one of the many out there who like POLICE- here he is... STING I like to think I got the only photos of him NOT looking pretty.

The following photos are of ULTRAVOX , one of the new wave of UK bands who performed at the Edge that year- a band I did like (and still applies)! Taken March (5, 6 or 7), 1979, upstairs at the Edge. One of my ULTRAVOX photos was published recently in

(Sept.,2006 issue, Hello/Good-bye)!



John Foxx must have known at this point that he was going to quit the band. I never talked to him, as he seemed so insular and I don't like to invade, but in the photos it was evident how apart from the rest of the band he already was, and so infinitely bored with it all. I remember that when the guys were rounded up to meet the press (above photo), they were all tired and wanted nothing to do with it. It shows.

These guys are from the MODS, a Toronto punk band.Taken March 5, 6 or 7, 1979, upstairs at the Edge, backstage at the ULTRAVOX gig.

MODS lead vocalist Greg Trinier
Unidentified, with Paul Trinier (Greg's brother), the MODS's roadie,


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, cinema, art and politics. As a fine arts photographer, she has exhibited in galleries in North America and the UK, and published widely.