Maybe it was a reflection of the economically tough times, but popular music tastes in the mid-to-late Seventies were on a quest for something… edgy.
The Beatles as a group were long since done and gone. Flower Power rock was on the wane. A disaffected, often bitter subdivision of youth culture was on the rise. It found its loud, discordant, often profane voice in something called… punk.
Punk rock music culture – as well as much of the most notorious music itself -- blossomed in the gritty, grimy reaches of Lower Manhattan, in clubs like Hilly Kristal’s famous CBGB in the Bowery.
The raucous Ramones were part of it from the start. And the haunted Patti Smith, Debbie Harry and Blondie, as well as the irrepressible Iggy Pop. And later the second great British music invasion of the post-World War II era brought the likes of the infamous Sex Pistols from across the Atlantic.
It was more than just music. It was a culture. Artists like Andy Warhol celebrated it. So did novelist William S. Burroughs and Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsburg.
And then there were the photographers who visually recorded it all.
Water Resources planning-and-permitting division specialist Joel Klein, a talented professional photographer in his own right, is laying the groundwork for an exhibit of some of the most important photographers whose work memorialized that wild and bawdy “punk scene” of the 1970s and early 1980s.
Entitled “Punk: the artists and people who influenced them,” the Klein-produced show would display the work of four photographers whose punk-era work – much of it in black and white – evokes a vibrant, visceral music era.
“We brainstormed the show at a book signing in New York City last November,” recalled Klein, a native New Yorker.
The book-signing event was a celebration of a new book by Klein’s good friend Marcia Resnick, titled “Punks, Poets and Provocateurs,” which included her photos of many of the music-and-arts “enfants terribles” of that era.
Resnick’s work would be a part of the planned exhibition. It also would include the photography of David Godlis, the unofficial photographer for the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Other artists in the planned show include Roberta Bayley, the one-time chief photographer for “Punk” magazine – the edgy publication that gave the music genre its name – and the multi-talented Chris Stein, who chronicled the punk scene as a photographer and, at the same time, wrote music and played guitar with Blondie.
“I met David Godlis at Marcia’s book-signing and it started coming together,” said Klein. “I picked four published artists and collaborated on what images they wanted to use for the show.”
Klein envisions a traveling exhibition that touches both coasts and maximizes the exposure of his selected artists.
“They all have their own unique styles,” he said. “A lot of people took a lot of pictures (during the New York punk era), but these really tell the story. It’s almost an anthropological study – a snapshot of time. The punk culture really started happening there in New York.”
Klein has designed and produced a compelling “teaser” brochure for the curators and museum decision makers he hopes to enthrall with the edgy romance of that cacophonous music-and-arts era.
“My intent is to expose people who may not have been exposed to it to these images,” said Klein. “They really take you there.”