HVW8 Rebel Cultures: Punks Rap Gangs

My show at HVW8 Gallery for Art & Design in LA opened last Thursday, big thanks to Tyler, Nikolai, and Addison for throwing a great party, as well as my girl Jen from Art Duet for kicking it up and getting press from the likes of Jay ZComplexLA Weekly (Jake you rule) and Brent Rollins for the photo above. The show is called ‘Rebel Cultures.Punks, Rap, Gangs’ : images from British punk era, LA punk scene, Old School Hip Hop, and the East LA Hoyo Maravilla gang series.

HVW8 Gallery  is at 661 N Spaulding below Melrose Open Tues-Sun 1-6pm until May 18 2014

Keith Haring

In 1985 I was working for the New York Daily News magazine when they asked me to shoot Keith Haring for a cover  story – I was already a big fan, I knew Keith’s work from the subway and my friend Kim (Paper mag) who’s home phone was decorated by Keith. So one afternoon I went to his studio on LaGuardia place. It was  was packed with paintings, and things Keith had covered in his signature style. There were tags from friends all over the walls, art from the likes of Warhol, paint pots, a Mickey Mouse phone, his bike, a decorated boom box, stuff everywhere.  He was a lovely man, he posed for me and we chatted all afternoon. He gave me a massive ‘Free South Africa’ signed poster which I treasure, it hangs over my desk today. Recently a new friend Ken Caruso came by to interview me for his antisociety blog he is a big KH fan and owns several of his pieces – he now owns the first of a new editioned print of mine (above) .

Today Keith’s work sells for huge amounts – a group of nine collectors of artwork by Keith Haring are suing the foundation that bears his name and its directors on Friday, accusing the defendants of “wrongfully destroying” the value of their paintings by publicly labeling them as fakes and refusing to consider information that would establish their provenance. I don’t think Keith would approve.

Graffiti Artists

I first became aware of graffiti in London in 1982 – taking photos of the first hip hop tour to come to Europe for Melody Maker I met Futura and Dondi White who tagged the dumpster outside the hotel for my photo (see above), or maybe just because that was what they did. Earlier that month I had photographed American rapper J Walter Negro painting a mural of New York trains for the Christmas cover of the magazine. I loved this new art

Moving to New York later that year the art was everywhere. Commissioned by style magazine ‘The Face’ to photograph the Rock Steady Crew I went to Harlem to shoot them break dancing on a piece of cardboard in front of a huge mural of a tiger’s head. I photographed BDP aka Boogie Down Productions in the Bronx in front of a graffiti covered wall, Salt & Pepa on the Lower East Side, Bambaata and members of the Zulu Nation in the Bronx,Eric B and Rakim in NYC with graffiti behind them, Stetsasonic in Brooklyn posing with the Stetson sign covered in tags and stickers.I wondered who these unknown artists were that painted the backdrops for so many of my photographs.

In 1983 I was in Los Angeles documenting the East LA gang El Hoyo Maravilla – their turf was centered around the Hoyo Maravilla park and clearly marked by the local artists. East LA was covered in paintings too I shot punk band The Undertakers (below) at their rehearsal space in the barrio.

And today I am still thanking amazing artists like Cope2 for giving so much ‘Flava; to my photographs, and providing a time line for these images in the future.

GoHardBoyz The Bronx 2013


Smutty Smith Tattoo

While working on a story for Rebel Ink Magazine in December I went with Smutty Smith (the Rockats) to  shoot him getting a tattoo by Baz at New York Hard Core. Baz, a rockabilly at heart, is fond of traditional and Japanese style tattoos. He spent 4 hours tattooing a lovely stand up base and roses on Smutty’s ribcage.

Smutty had tattoos when I first met him in 1981 – below is my photo backstage at the Whiskey in Los Angeles of ‘Rosemarie’ and a young friend admiring the art work.

John Ahearn

I went to John Ahearn’s studio in the Bronx to take a portrait of him for ‘Jocks & Nerds. I have been following his work since I first came to New York back in 1980’s. The studio was full of sculptures and the art tools he uses, buckets, the plaster casting materials for the moulds etc – I chose to photograph him in front of these double dutch girls. It reminded me of my first hip hop show in London back in 1982.

John ( who is the twin brother of my friend Charlie Ahearn ‘Wild Style’) came to NYC back in 1974. Working at the artist run Bronx gallery Fashion Moda, he publicly face-cast local people making plaster portraits – there he met the 18 year old artist Rigoberto Torres. Rigoberto had worked with plaster in his uncle’s statue factory in the Bronx. In 1981 they collaborated on a series of permanent neighborhood sculptures casting people like the double dutch girls (above). They are still working together today.
There is a great exhibition of  the sculptures “Works from Dawson Street and Walton Avenue’ on now at the Alexander and Bonin gallery in Chelsea – don’t miss it – the double dutch girls are the ‘stars’ of the show.

Leaders of the New School

I photographed the group Leaders of the New School in 1989 in my studio. We had artist friends the ‘ThunderJockeys’ paint a crazy backdrop for the shoot.Check out the video clip I made at the studio. The group : Busta Rhymes, Cut Monitor Milo, Charlie Brown and Dinco D were from Uniondale Long Island. Next day we went to Uniondale and photographed them at their school.The group went on tour with Public Enemy and Busta Rhymes became famous.

Style Wars 2

Style Wars 2 is a homage to Henry Chalfont’s 1983 movie Style Wars. The directors Velli and Amos who hail from Slovenia and Switzerland say when they saw Style Wars for the first time they fell in love with the movie and the artists : “We watched it so many times we were quoting it constantly – it started getting bigger and bigger.The artists were our idols. Then we made the movie with our pocket money. It took us five years”

Devi (above) is a contemporary graffiti artist who represents the artist Skeme from the original movie.

It is a mystery who’ bombed’  the train painted with the name ‘Style Wars’ we see in ‘SW2” Devi says it wasn’t him but we think he may be undercover …. In any case SW2 is a hilarious tribute to the original.

Graffiti : ‘The uninvited appropriation of public space. The public expression of an individual for others to enjoy’


Tomorrow is the last day to see the Photoville show in Dumbo – it is well worth a visit. LuxLab has a show called ‘Rebels; curated by Carl Saytor featuring, amongst others, my photo of Justin from The GoHardBoyz (above) – true rebels that ride dirt bikes in the Bronx and Harlem – more of them in my next post. The exhibitions are shown in metal shipping containers, there are some beautiful and shocking war images in the exhibition”Liberia -Remembering’, aCurator presents ‘Small Town Inertia’ black and white intense photographs by J A Motram, – and much more to see.


Louis Mendes Street Photographer

I  recently spent the morning with iconic street photographer Louis Mendes and his biographer Ray We met for an early breakfast in Harlem at his favorite tiny soul food diner.We walked around the neighborhood chatting and taking photos Then we went to his home in a converted old hotel by Times Square His room is stacked with photo books, old cameras, boxes of flash bulbs, photos cover the walls.

He used to photograph at nightclubs and has probably shot every one, the famous and not so famous  He takes just one Polaroid which he sells to the subject He never thought to take one for himself

“”I just photograph people, I stand outside and wait for them to come to me. I give them a set price for a Polaroid photo if I need  to buy a coffee or an extraordinary price if I need to fly away”

The idea that he is a documentary photographer seems strange to him He was just taking photographs of people for ‘coffee money’

Now 80 years old Louis can be found outside  B&H Photo, Adorama or at an event at BAM, always impeccably dressed, still taking polaroid portraits – have him take your photo.

Out West

Watching ‘Breaking Bad’ reminds me of road trips out West, driving in New Mexico, Arizona, California, Texas. Deserted roads, neon signs, abandoned gas stations, motels, old cafes,reflections of life as it used to be on the road. Took these shots on cross country trips trying to see the other side of America. It’s still out there.