the next wave of los angeles punks
Photographer Moni Haworth shoots the best underground musicians keeping the punk fire burning.
photography moni haworth
Moni Haworth has been befriending and documenting feral, creative teens since the early 90s. A hero of the London and LA undergrounds, she has a small but adoring crowd of followers on her cult Johnny's Bird website. Her images have been spotted on designers' and casting directors' mood boards. Still, she hasn't shot many campaigns, doesn't show her work in galleries, and she's only now starting to consider releasing a book, after 30 years in photography.
You might recognise Haworth if you saw the autumn/winter 14 campaign for Agyness Deyn's clothing brand Title/A ("I didn't want to do it but they asked me three times," she says). A tiny, witty, curly blonde originally from Manchester, with her stick 'n' poke tattoos and leopard-print brothelcreepers, she is an uncompromising throwback to the original London punk and new wave era.
In the 80s, after a few attempts at working with high fashion glossies, she began leading a double life, as a stay-at-home mom in Muswell Hill by day and a heavy metal DJ for a strip club in Soho by night. She cultivated an obsession with legendary photographer Sally Mann (for a while, they were pen pals). And besides her two daughters' high school friends, the strippers became Haworth's favorite subjects. Teens started squatting her home, all glued to the TV, playing her favorite films: Eraserhead, The Breakfast Club, Gummo. "Trashy Americana has always been a major inspiration," she says.
In 2011, Haworth resettled her family in Los Angeles. Before she left, she threw her entire collection of negatives in a dumpster ("a liberating act," she says). Now, she lives with her two daughters, Amber, 18, and Jess, 23, in the uncharted hood of West Adams. She still stops pale, shy, spotty teens in the street. Soon though, her cult website will be replaced with a brand new online platform. We took the occasion to ask her about five music talents she thinks the world should know better.
"I met Gabe first, when he was 18. The band was playing in a tiny space upstairs from a friend's store on Sunset Boulevard. He was beautiful, and kind of arrogant looking. I was scared to ask if I could shoot him, but he turned out to be super polite, shy and anxious. I discovered the band was actually a family: Liv Niles and Noa Niles sing and play guitar, Liv's boyfriend Blues Williams is on bass, and Gabe Niles, the demon baby brother, smashes the drums. Their father, Prescott, played bass for The Knack in the 70s and 80s. Since we met, Gateway Drugs has opened for The Jesus and The Mary Chain and recorded their first album, Magick Spells (they're working on the second one, right now)."
Volodja & Klavdiya
"Two runaway Russian gold diggers, Volokja and Klavdiy, arrive in America. They are obsessed with Mercedes Benz, and expecting the streets to be paved with sugar daddies. They are musicians, playing darkwave foreign electro synth. We went to the desert to shoot some pictures for their first album cover. Their story has infinite potential for blurring the lines between real and not real, documentary and mockumentary. If you look at their pictures, you may find that Klavdiya looks like my daughter Amber and Volodja like her friend Autumn. But so what? For me, they are as real as JT LeRoy or Spinal Tap. I love these photos for their trashy flash and low-light grain. Things look nicer to me when they're shitty."
Braedon Speakman and Jones Jamieson
"I met Braedon, who's 18 now, when he created a band with my daughter Amber. It's called Sad Use Pretty. Jones is part of the Braedon package. They make films and music videos, including one for The Pink Slips (Duff McKagan's daughter Grace's band) and a bunch of quirky stuff. This kissing series happened because -- despite their girlfriends -- they're always professing love for each other. I love the harsh sunlight on their white skin. The third boy is Garrett, who makes creepy sketches and drives the van. It wasn't hard to persuade them to pose: I just mentioned burritos and beer money. I always want to pay people for their time. I'm really grateful that they allowed me to manipulate their personalities for my own fun."
"Zumi looks totally East European to me, but she is actually from LA. She makes really cool jewelry and styles herself in it for our photos. She used to be in the band K-Holes, and now she plays sax on stage with The Black Lips all around the world. She is probably the most exotic creature I know. She recently broke her front tooth and just left it. And her MO is basically nudity. I usually don't ask anyone to get naked (it's cooler if it's just a side effect of the situation). But Zumi just does her thing, indifferent to whether she's naked or clothed, with or without my camera in front of her. If I were to ever shoot anyone having sex, it would be Zumi, just because it wouldn't be a fake fancy deal. I can't make good photos unless I'm bewitched by the subject."
"A few years ago, Marlon had a residency at The Standard Hollywood. Lucinda Williams was moved to tears by his voice and invited him to open for her. I first photographed him in London in 2010 when he was 21 and studying fine art at Goldsmiths. Ryan McGinley had already shot him on one of his famous road trips. Our first shoot was tense. He was shy and I was probably pushy. But we made it through to many more photos over the years. Currently, he has two bands: Gold Star is the one he stays up at night writing for. CG Roxanne and The Nightmares is a punk band that began as a joke performance but ended up with two brilliant albums (Shanghai Lowdown and Bâtards au Paradis), plus legendary rock manager Wild Bruce."
Text Carole Sabas
Photography Moni Haworth