A photographic exhibition highlighting images from a musical revolution whose repercussions and reverberations of cultural change nearly 40 years ago, and continue to increase in significance today, is currently on display at Sydney’s SunStudios.
Punkulture comprises 62 images by Adrian Boot, a renowned, long time music photographer based in the UK – and features iconic legends such as The Clash, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Blondie, The Buzzcocks and many more – some of which have never previously been exhibited in Australia before.
Much of the legacy of punk is now taken for granted, yet through its ‘do it yourself’ ethos, punk heralded the birth of independent music – visually captured Boot. Punkulture showcases punk style and attitude as it closed the gulf between musicians and their audience and by rejecting musical virtuosity, grabbing music back for young people.
Twenty years ago, in obscure little pubs and clubs throughout the world, boys and girls were taking to the stage and the dance-floor to extol the peculiarities of social decay in screams, stares and safety pins. In small demo studios and on 4 track machines, in back bedrooms and garages, groups were producing their own records.
When the Sex Pistols’ TV interview with the journalist Bill Grundy broke up in a barrage of four-letter words in November 1976, the incident and its aftermath filled the front pages of Britain’s tabloid press for an entire week, and it wasn’t only media madness. An Essex lorry-driver was so infuriated with the group’s attitude that he kicked in the screen of his television set.
Punk was a stinging, relentless satire, an outrageously expressed scream for freedom that only expressed its depth of desperation. It was a necessarily harsh commentary on a hopeless, pathetic society, kick-starting radical thought into a sphere higher than at the end of the 1960s.
But the world of punk at first seemed very strange to outsiders. Many people were genuinely frightened of the punks they passed in the street: no-one had bothered to explain to them that a large part of its origins was simply art-school dressing-up. 1977 marked a watershed year, not only in popular music or culture, but in attitudes and sensibility.
In this overturning of the past, a new, more egalitarian world emerged: from now on rock stars were not expected to behave with the dinosaur-like arrogance of erased consciousness that most had paraded since the 1960’s. Punk was a new music, a new social critique, but most of all it was a new kind of free speech.
After university in 1970 Adrian moved to Jamaica as a physics teacher, returning to Britain to freelance for the NME, Melody Maker, The Times, The Guardian, and The Face. By the mid-1970s he had become staff photographer for The Melody Maker. He has been chief photographer for Live Aid; Nelson Mandela – Freedom at 70; Roger Water’s The Wall in Berlin; and Greenpeace in the Soviet Union.
Adrian has also worked with ORBIS, the Flying Eye hospital in Africa; the British Council in Iraq and Jordan; the Grateful Dead in Egypt; and for Island Records in Jamaica, Colombia, Algeria, Nigeria and many other parts of the world.
Punkulture – images from a musical revolution
SunStudios, 42 Maddox Street, Alexandria (Sydney)
Exhibition continues to 13 May 2016
For more information, visit: www.sunstudiosaustralia.com for details.
Image: courtesy of Adrian Boot