Only a handful of people witnessed the first gig by the Sex Pistols, but millions more worshipped the defiant musical revolution that shook England at the end of seventies. Punk’s Dead, a new English language book brought out by the Prague-based publishers Divus, captures the punk spirit and characteristic accompanying aesthetic – expressed largely through torn-worn clothes and funny haircuts.
The book assembles the photographs of Simon Barker aka SIX, member of the legendary Bromley Contingent, who has been lucky enough to witness this buoyant period in pop cultural history. Barker was an insider and lived in St James Hotel, London’s answer to New York’s debauched hotbed of creativity Chelsea Hotel. His colourful depiction of the scene features the scene’s most famous protagonists such as Sid Vicious, Malcolm McLaren, Derek Jarman, Siouxsie Sioux and Adam Ant, and conveys the electric vibe of the fledgling punk movement.
“In 1976, when I moved into the St. James Hotel in London, I bought myself one of the cheapest pocket cameras available. Fully automatic, with no controls or settings, it just required a simple slot-in film cartridge. An idiot could use it – and I did. I knew I did’nt want to be like other photographers, so I chose never to take a black and white photograph or focus the camera. Subconsciously I concentrated on the women and artists at the heart of what would later be known as ‘punk’ in London,” says Barker. “The photos you see in it were all unplanned, spur of the moment shots taken by myself for myself and, up until now, with never a thought given to publication. In over thirty years, they have only been seen by a handful of close friends. I used to think they weren’t good enough to show people. Now I think they are almost too good.”
Punk’s Dead is accompanied by an exhibition taking place until 14 December at Divus’ Prague gallery in Bubenská 1.
Published November 23, 2011.