“IT’S NOT ABOUT ME, IT’S ABOUT DOING FUCKING JUSTICE TO THE SUBJECTS”
I thought to start with approaches to looking and how we see ourselves. It seems live music photographers have been increasingly hemmed to take photos from the gap between the barrier and stage. Photographs of musicians on stage are looking more and more the same: black background, primary-color wheel lighting, the increasingly ubiquitous angle from below. Do these images transmit and reflect something different for you?
Well, it’s generic, you know? People have a formula and then just keep going, and I have my own formula too, but very often people just do what they can get away with and you can see it in the work. Would it last? What’s iconic? What do and what don’t people remember? What makes the impact? When I shot photographs, I didn’t know they were going to last twenty years. I did it because I cared and worked hard at it to make it happen. The style of the photographs you mentioned reminds me of photos that were cross-processed with weird colors and layers, which was really big in the 90s, because the photographs were basically boring otherwise.
I learned to capture a photographic moment in time thanks in most part to
Could you elaborate on bands and trust? Your images of an emerging Bad Brains or bands you have had a long relationship with come to mind…
Well, the relationship with each band is very different. In 1980, the first time I saw the Bad Brains there were less than twenty-five people there so the band made up a fifth of the audience. That’s a big difference. Maybe a year or two later there were
Is it your litmus test to ask, “Is it for remembering or not— otherwise why snap it?”
The litmus test is, “Am I
Well, let’s go with twenty years ago. Before this interview I revisited the preface for Fuck You Heroes, “Even some of the more ‘open-minded’ art book publishers are mainly interested in putting out their pre-(ill)-conceived notion of ‘fine’ art. Some of them worried that my book was too far outside the mainstream to be profitable, or not of great enough importance to risk any kind of financial loss.” The culture you photographed— overlooked at first, then lauded, exhibited in museums, albeit through a compressed narrative— could you revisit your decision to self-publish your books in that atmosphere?
I feel a lot of talk centers on “attitude” and “energy” and that’s great, but haven’t they become the go-to words for skateboarding or hardcore, with less attention to why there’s an “attitude,” why there is this “energy”?
Well, this could be worded another way but what I can say is that the heart the artist put into their work, I feel as though I have to put into my work. If I don’t give what they give, again, why am I doing it? It’s a waste of my time, and their time and we aren’t adding anything. We have this “attitude” because we know things need to change and know things can be better. We are not nihilists. We actually believe in our future and want the world to be a better place, and that’s why we fight for that. We have a goal to share these moments, to share this attitude and hopefully inspire others that something needs to be done. We need to move forward and this is the way we express ourselves.
How about the political dimension often being overlooked?
Yeah, people who take photos or write and decide to leave the political aspect out of it, the inspiration for it all, they’re worthless. They’re part of the problem, not the solution. Fuck them for not caring and putting into it what the subjects do. How’s that sound?
So about this new book, can you talk a bit more about reengaging with your archive?
Those books are classics to me and to a lot of people and I’ll say this new book is even better, it’s the best of Fuck You Heroes and Fuck You Too. In retrospect, the best of, right? Fuck You Heroes is now twenty years old and I might have edited it differently today than I would have back then. Back in ‘94 I wanted to
There are introductions from Shepard Fairey and Craig R. Stecyk III, how did their contributions materialize this time?
For my previous books the texts were based on the subject matter, but for the new book I had very specific
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