Photographer Puts Her Archive of Photos Documenting the 1970s New York Punk Scene on Instagram: Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Lydia Lunch, Tom Verlaine, and Even Jean Michel Basquiat

Just when you think the fabled down­town New York 70s punk scene cen­tered around CBG­Bs has no more secrets to offer, anoth­er home­grown doc­u­men­tar­i­an appears to show us pho­tographs (on Insta­gram) we’ve nev­er seen and tell some pret­ty nifty sto­ries to go along with them. Julia Gor­ton came to New York from her native Delaware in 1976 and used a Polaroid cam­era to cap­ture her first­hand encoun­ters with leg­ends like Deb­bie Har­ry, Pat­ti Smith, David Byrne, Tom Ver­laine, Iggy Pop, Richard Hell, and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks’ Lydia Lunch (below), “a nat­ur­al for the glam­orous black-and-white pho­tos I liked to make,” she says, and a “a real part­ner” in Gorton’s enter­prise and her most-pho­tographed sub­ject.

In Christi­na Cacouris’ inter­view with Gor­ton at Garage, we learn that the pho­tog­ra­ph­er “end­ed up meet­ing Tom’s mom [Tele­vi­sion singer and gui­tarist Tom Ver­laine] at the flea mar­ket in Wilm­ing­ton [Delaware]. She was a proud mom who played her son’s sin­gle on a cas­sette play­er in the back of her sta­tion wag­on while she sold things on a fold­ing table.”

Exact­ly this kind of inti­ma­cy and fam­i­ly atmos­phere per­vades Gorton’s work in the punk clubs, down­town streets, and record stores. Like most of the per­form­ers onstage, Gor­ton was a rel­a­tive ama­teur, learn­ing her craft along­side the musi­cians and artists she pho­tographed. “You didn’t need to be per­fect before you start­ed,” she says.

Although she found her lack of tech­ni­cal abil­i­ty frus­trat­ing, in hind­sight, Gor­ton says, “images that I per­ceived at the time as fail­ures actu­al­ly rep­re­sent the true char­ac­ter of the time peri­od more hon­est­ly and pow­er­ful­ly than the images I thought were ‘suc­cess­ful.’” In many cas­es, how­ev­er, it has tak­en 21st cen­tu­ry dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy to unearth some of her most reveal­ing shots.

The cost of film pro­hib­it­ed her from tak­ing mul­ti­ple expo­sures, and the dark­ness of CBG­Bs left many prints too murky. Using Pho­to­shop, Gor­ton has been able to revis­it many of these seem­ing­ly failed attempts, like the moody por­trait above of Tom Ver­laine. “I was able to scan and final­ly pull him out of the shad­ows of decades past,” she mus­es.

Along with the glam­our of her por­traits, Gorton’s can­did shots of the peri­od cap­ture down­town leg­ends in rare moments and pos­es. (Check out John Cale above at CBG­Bs, for exam­ple, or Jean Michel Basquiat, then known as SAMO, danc­ing on the right, below.) Shot while she was a stu­dent at the Par­sons School of Design, Gorton’s pho­tos of the punk, New Wave, and No Wave scene were the begin­ning of her long career as a pho­tog­ra­ph­er, illus­tra­tor, and graph­ic design­er.

On her Insta­gram feed, 70s and 80s images mix in with her cur­rent projects, and the jux­ta­po­si­tion of con­tem­po­rary musi­cians and artists with their coun­ter­parts from 40 years ago gives a sense of the long con­ti­nu­ity reflect­ed in Gorton’s engage­ment with street art and under­ground rock cul­ture. Explore her pho­to col­lec­tion here.

via Vice

Relat­ed Con­tent:  

Watch an Episode of TV-CBGB, the First Rock ‘n’ Roll Sit­com Ever Aired on Cable TV (1981)

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of CBGB, the Ear­ly Home of Punk and New Wave

Pat­ti Smith Plays at CBGB In One of Her First Record­ed Con­certs, Joined by Sem­i­nal Punk Band Tele­vi­sion (1975)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.