“A guy walks up to me and asks ‘What’s punk?’ So I kick over a garbage can and say ‘That’s punk!’ So he kicks over a garbage can and says ‘That’s punk?’ and I say ‘No, that’s trendy.’ -Billie Jo Armstrong
My husband Doug and I were sitting at Vernick Coffee one Monday morning, as I was mulling over ideas for an upcoming blog post (this one)— and Doug said it was “so punk” to wait so close to my deadline to start strategizing.
I didn’t need to hear anything more.
Immediately, I sent a few texts, followed by a few phone calls, and by Thursday we’d hopped a train to Manhattan and had a fitting with Trash and Vaudeville, one of the first originators of punk fashion. I worked closely with the store’s manager, Diana, as we pulled several different colorways of the classic punk tartan suit: We tried yellow, green, blue, purple, red. Red! The minute Doug emerged from the dressing room in the red suit, the other options ceased to exist. Decision made.
Punk rock didn’t know it was a phenomenon when it started— it started innocently and was more about the idea of being genuine, whatever that means to you.
What exactly did it mean to me?
Well, I thought back to when I first picked up a camera— the very second I held one in my hands, I shot with a ferocity and I shot without any real knowledge. (That’s punk rock, by the way.) I didn’t know an f/stop from a shutter speed. And did it matter? Nah. Not then it didn’t. I was in love— I just wanted a camera in my hands to aim at something. Anything.
So, for this series of photographs, I decided to go back to the beginning and create without thinking. (That’s so punk.) I paid little attention to my exposure, I scoffed at sharp focus, I decided to simply abandon the “rules” and not care. I just shot— I felt loose and I felt free and guess what? I had a blast! Take notice of the blurred smudge on the right side of some of the images— I framed a flyer that was tacked to a telephone pole in the foreground of my viewfinder and took a chance. I wasn’t quite sure how it would look— and did it bother me that it might not be “perfect?” Not this time it didn’t.
“Punk rock should mean freedom: liking and accepting anything you like, playing whatever you want. As sloppy as you want. As long as it’s good and it has passion.” -Kurt Cobain
In the end, and for this shoot in particular, the rules really didn’t matter. More importantly, I had fun. We had fun.
“To me punk is about being an individual and going against the grain and standing up and saying ‘This is who I am.'” -Joey Ramone
On the evening that Doug and I returned to Philadelphia from Manhattan after our wardrobe fitting, I shared with him my idea for this post— the idea to go against my “Type-A, rule following, needing an exact solution to everything” personality. He seemed amused with my plan: My plan to forget everything that I’d taught myself about photography, to throw the rules out the window, and just go for it—
So, I asked what he was thinking…
He gave me a sly smile, winked, and said, “Color Me Impressed.”
Shot with a Nikon D5