A ‘REAL PUNK’
hair JOEL FORMAN USING ALAN WHITE ANTHOLOGY
stylist BRITTNI MORRISON
stylist assistant BARNABY WHITE
I am trying to write about punk. I am trying to interpret a preliminary subculture that remains seductively subliminal. A subculture that, for the latter part of the 20th century, engendered a political sense of community, identification, and mobilisation in Britain and the United States. A movement, so to speak, comprised of ageless idols and icons aspiring to be more authentic versions of themselves. I am trying to interpret what the author William Gibson meant when he described punk as the “detonation of some slow-fused project buried deep in society’s flank.” Is punk an explosion of nascent feelings and ideas? Or the fulmination of all things too seedy to be considered sublime? Can it be both? Can punk stand for something that is as splendid as it is illicit or dissident? In fashion or music, I would argue the answer is: yes. Take the late Vivienne Westwood, for instance, who redefined popular culture with her exhibitionist garments and ardent accessories. Or Jean Paul Gaultier, whose offbeat alternative artistry stimulated new aesthetic codes. Or the Sex Pistols or Minor Threat, who gave anarchy a sense of purpose. For each connoisseur, punk not only detonated incipient thoughts but also birthed true brilliance. That is why it is still seeping into the veins of those who were exposed and transformed all that time ago.
Documenting the reality of punk is easier said than done. A ‘real punk’ would rarely stand forthright in front of a lens and wait for the camera to flash. A ‘real punk’ would seldom allow their life to be captured as a memento mori of absolute freedom. Therefore, there is something quite paradoxical about presenting a photographic series ‘on punk’; there is something almost ironic about curating a set of images that reflect a subculture so crude in and of itself. As photographer Hector Clark reflected, “There is a level of voyeurism that comes with observing punk culture that ultimately means you can never actually be a part of it.” Does that really matter though? Do we all need to be punks, or can we instead carry small parts of their ethos in our pockets, like a small forgotten coin at the seam? When hairstylist Joel Forman, makeup artist Stoj, stylist Brittni Morrison, and photographer Clark come together for a photoshoot, they make it seem so. In 12 hours, the creative quartet transformed 15 models into characters who, for a day, were punks: they were aggressively free and utterly wild. They paraded across the set with piercings, wigs, safety pins, nets, and leather. They swaggered and slayed, kicked and whipped. They played in all their glory and within the terms of their own self-conception. They celebrated the performative aspects of everyday life and reminded us of punk’s ‘street-level grace’.
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