punk is alive and kicking
Early this year i-D Italy gave us a look at punk London through the eyes of an Italian photographer.
Skip has a spiderweb tattooed on his left cheek and two black tears under his right eye. He wears a Fred Perry polo shirt and a stern expression, the kind of look you would expect from someone who has experienced a lot in life. Inked on his arm is the British flag, an 'A' for anarchy, and just a few inches below his hairline are the words "I don't care". Skip is one of the offbeat subjects captured by Stefano, an Italian photographer now based in East London who loves being surrounded by people who have a story to tell in their own unique way. Together with Hellen, Steve, Maddie, Mike and all the other men and women who catch Stefano's eye, Skip embodies that sense of rebellion and couldn't-give-a-damn attitude that has characterised the punk movement since its inception. As London celebrates the 40th anniversary of punk this year, Stefano, true to his DIY approach, seeks to pay homage to the counterculture, capturing those who still feel that energy running under their skin.
How did you meet your subjects and what are you looking for?
All my subjects are people I meet on the street. I go to them and ask if they would like to pose for me. Some of them politely say no, others rudely say no, some others say yes and we develop a relationship that sometimes leads to a fruitful friendship, just like it happened with my favourite subjects — Hellen, Steve, Skip, Maddie, Mike… All those people you can often spot in my pictures. To be honest I'm not sure why I choose them. A pair of sunglasses or a scarf that stick out, the way they sit on the bus, or simply that je ne sais quoi that makes them unique.
You are from Italy but you've been living in London for many years now. Whats your relationship with the city?
London is quite challenging, it depends a lot on the way you experience it. It has much to offer but it steals from you at the same time. The streets of East London are like a playground for me, there is so much to see, to do, to photograph… I found a new dimension here, and now I call London home. Obviously the small town I grew up in holds a special place in my heart, but it's in London that my creativity bloomed and keeps evolving.
London celebrates 40 years of punk this year. What does it represent for you and what does it mean to be punk today?
Punk is liberating. It's pure rebellion, it's doing whatever you like, as you like, when you like. That are no rules to follow. I was talking about it with Steve — one of my subjects — the other day; he was telling me that being punk 20 or 30 years ago was obviously slightly different. It was difficult because our society wasn't ready to embrace it. Tattoos, studs, dyed hair and its radical lifestyle weren't accepted at all. Today being tattooed or wearing a studded jacket is the order of the day.
Why are countercultures so deeply rooted in Britain compared to Italy in your opinion?
I think countercultures are deeply rooted everywhere. It doesn't matter if it's hip hop, punk, grunge or the skinhead movement, they all have something in common — their need for change, expressed thought different art forms such as music, poetry, street art, art performance. Every country is different and gives birth to different styles depending on the social and economical situation. As for Italy, I think countercultures are a huge part of our society as well. But this is just my opinion, of course.
Can you tell us about your latest project with Steve?
This year punk is 40 years old and London is celebrating with a wide number of events all around the city. I'm trying to show with my series that punk is still alive and kicking. Steve is helping me with the casting, and when the series is completed he will include the photos in his upcoming book. It's always nice to help each other.
What did you learn from your subjects with whom you have developed friendships over the years?
All these people I shoot have beeen thought a lot — drug abuse, financial issues, problems that many people will never face in their lives. Some of them hit rock bottom, but they never lost hope and had the strength to start all over again. I think this is the most important lesson I learnt from them — be happy with what you have and never cease to be creative, do whatever you like and hold your head high.
Text Giorgia Baschirotto
Photography Stefano Venturi
- best of i-d globally 2016