My journey as a photographer has endured its share of bumps and bruises along the way. Though I had had a few images published and had my first paid gigs a few years before. I had very little knowledge of putting a cohesive portfolio together. I was a hobbyist and an enthusiast. One that had become passionate of the art, but had little grasp of how to get from A to B. Somewhere in my twenties, I picked up a second job working nights at an East Village record store. The owner, himself a published stock photographer became somewhat of a mentor, giving me the green light to build a portfolio from the continuous flow of interesting characters who came in the place. Good, bad or ugly, I was photographing and documenting much of my city life. Many, if not most of the people who took me up on my offer to use them as my instruments of creativity would meet me at a certain time and near place. I was more than happy to share prints with those who agreed to meet up. At the time, I was working with a very basic Nikon film SLR film camera that another boss gave me a few years before. While revisiting some old image files. I found a folder marked “slides”. I recall shooting almost exclusively with slide film at the time. While I don’t remember this particular woman’s name. I recall the session taking place within the lower east side’s Tompkins Square Park. In indulging myself in looking through old files. I’m surprised to find so many keepers.
Going through old slides, I found this image of a Tupac Shakur memorial mural that appeared shorty after his still unsolved murder in Los Angeles. Over the years I’ve come to love, and respect Tupac’s legacy to hip hop and life in general. Looking back, I’m grateful for making an effort to protect my slides and negatives.
Having gone to so many shows in the ’90s and perhaps not having a way to file all the negatives and prints I had adequately. I would sometimes lose track of what band was featured in some of the images I had. And though I’m convinced the picture posted is of Christie Front Drive frontman Eric Richter. Though I exhausted numerous channels to confirm that, yes, it was indeed the band you mentioned, my inquiries were often answered with, “I don’t know. I never saw them live.” or “I don’t know. We never played a show with them.” Still, I always loved this image and the ones I had taken that day at ABC No Rio. So until someone says otherwise, denies or confirms, I will continue to believe this is none other than Christie Front Drive.
Though popular within the punk community at the time, bands such as The Casualties and (pictured here) L.E.S. Stitches never really appealed to me. As a pretty clean-cut hardcore kid, the punk revival of the 90’s never captured my interest. Considering how often I ventured out to see the Radicts, Turbo A.C’s, Suicide King, Snake Charmers, and Electric Frankenstein, it’s safe to say I liked the music a lot more than the clothes and imagery. With that said, I admit to having a positive reaction when it came to the one, and only time I caught them live. There was a lot of energy from both the band and the people in attendance. Not bad by a long shot.
I had made plans to pick up Roksolana in the city and drive back to Hoboken to shoot at the studio. I had spent the earlier part of the morning setting up lights and backgrounds while stumbling around trying to make sure everything I needed was within reach. Quickly enough I made it down to SOHO with time to spare and decided to get my walk on. The temperature was reaching into the 60’s and the sun was fighting it’s way to the forefront.
As Rox arrived we quickly caught up with one another. It had been two years since we last worked together. It looked to me that she had not changed one bit. A big smile, wide eyes and a bundle of energy that a savvy marketing guru might turn into a hip energy drink. As we got in the car she excitedly asked what our plan was. I explained the studio set up and the look I was going for. Her eyes turned south like a child just about to ask her parents for the biggest toy in the store. “So, James… What do you think of the weather today.” I knew right then and there that we were just about to embark on an outdoor adventure. I was more than happy to embark on such a journey.
With a new sense of direction we hauled ass to the Lower East Side finding inspiration on this block and that block. Our first stop was just off Ave. A. There were interesting store fronts on the North Side of the street and a mural themed concrete wall and classic car on it’s South Side. Rox quickly rifled through her bag of tricks looking for just the right outfit as I surveyed the area for a good place to start. At one point she spotted a bike that was locked up in front of one of the store fronts. She quickly began to climd on as construction workers, shop owners and residents entered and exited the adjacent building. At one point the owner of the bike came out to see her quite comfortably mounting herself upon it. She looked over confidently smiling, “Is this your bike?” “Don’t worry, I will return it better than I found it.” Her friendly presence and sweet voice could have won over a Hell’s Angel.
Some more great shots with a small interruption from a rather large homeless man coming between us in rather aggressive manner “How about you give a veteran a dollar!” he barked. Intimidated but more pissed that he visibly shook Rox up. I took a deep breathe and replied “How bout you give a poor photographer twenty.” Those few seconds felt like a lifetime but he actually moved on up the block without uttering another word. We quickly got back to work finishing up the block in front of one of my old haunts ABC No Rio.
As the day grew darker we stopped for some Vietnamese Sandwiches (Her first) before ending finishing up at Tompkins Sq. Park. For someone who was feeling pretty awkward in recent days. This was the perfect tonic. Funny how photography can do that.
This morning a friend of mine posted “You’re slacking on your blog.” on my Facebook wall. She was absolutely right. It hasn’t been due to any stoppage on my taking pictures or having adventures, It’s just that I’ve been at a loss for words lately. Even in conversation I feel that my thoughts aren’t flowing like they should. I’m not the least bit concerned though. We all go through down cycles. Sometimes it’s art. Other times it’s relationships. Luckily for me those cycles never last very long. Too much to do and see. Too many adventures to be had and stories to be told. The blog is not dead. Long live the blog.
There is something very special about the friendships and people I met in the 80’s and 90’s through the NYHC scene. Friendships made in front of clubs like CBGB’s. (gone) In the basement of Some Records. (gone) and those early shows at ABC No Rio. There was something about the music that brought all these misfits and creative individuals together, make them bond and (not to be clique) but for lack of a better word…. become family. Plain and simple most of the good friends I have today (more than twenty years later) are the friends I made going to those Sunday Matinee’s at CBGB’s and the early basement shows at ABC. When my friend Freddy sent me a message about the GO reunion is wasn’t as much about seeing the band again. It was about seeing friends. (some of which just happened to be in a band.)ABC is a shit building that has been on it’s last legs long before Punks ever set foot in it. The people who fill it are what makes the place such a landmark. The people who come to shows and donate, the people who work tirelessly to keep it open and keep it filled with art and creativity. Speaking of creativity there were some really good bands in support of GO including ABC originals Hausi Pungo, Awkward Thought, DBCR and others. It was great seeing so many old familiar faces…. Mike and Aaron from GO, the guys from Hausi Pungo and Citizens Arrest, Bill Florio, Tracy, Freddy Alva and so many others. The bands all put on great sets and were both well received and equally supported. During GO’s set Mike noted that it was ABC’s 20th birthday as far as Punk Matinee’s were concerned which was followed by him lighting a birthday cake, having the crowd blow it out and eat it. Priceless. A good time was definitely had by all.
The singer for DBCR has the biggest eyebrows known to man. He reminded me of a cross between Dr. Evil and comedian Dave Attell. Awkward Thought singer John Franko wore a hood and ski mask throughout their entire set.