dogtown, proto-punk and beastie boys photographer glen e. friedman’s got steeze
Glen E. Friedman held a middle finger up to the establishment with his books Fuck You Heroes and Fuck You Too, and as he opens his first UK exhibition in almost 20 years, we catch up with one of the original pool skaters.
Tony Alva, 1977
In his teens, Glen E. Friedman moved in the same circles as the Dogtown and Z-Boys skaters. Though a skater himself, he preferred to hang over the edge of empty pools with a Pocket Instamatic catching the likes of Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta at their most impressive, helping document the most iconic days of skateboarding. When the pool skaters got into punk rock, Friedman photographed everyone from Black Flag to Bad Brains and produced Suicidal Tendencies' debut album before his old friends the Beastie Boys came to LA. With the rise of Hip Hop, he became Def Jam's in house photographer and created the Beastie Boys Check Your Head album cover as well as capturing definitive portraits of the likes of Run-DMC, Ice-T and LL Cool J.
Now Mr Friedman is bringing his work to the UK for the first time since 1997, in an exhibition named after his cult photozine MY RULES (self-published in 1982). All Tomorrow's Parties are putting on the show at 14 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, which features over 50 images from the three powerhouse countercultures, alongside Glen's seventh monograph of the same name, published by Rizzoli. We caught up with one of the original lords of Dogtown to talk motherfucking attitude…
How did you first get involved with the skate scene?
I was a skateboarder, it was what all kids did who were half cool.
Why did you decide to photograph them rather than pursue skating itself?
I skated for fun and I just wasn't that good, there was a point where the evolution and progression of the sport was surpassing my abilities, and breaking my arm also helped put a damper on things.
Who was your favourite skater to photograph?
I never had an absolute favourite, but back then, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Marty Grimes, Jay Smith, Shogo Kubo...
When did you move over from photographing skateboarders, to punk rockers?
As soon as there were punk bands to shoot, because when we started skating there was no punk yet... As we all got into it and after I went to a few shows and decided this was also something important I wanted to share with others, that's when I started making photographs at punk gigs.
And from punks to Hip Hop artists?
Once it became accessible and a part of my own world.
What's the connection between those three?
Motherfucking attitude, what do you think? Spirit, heart, vitality.
Do you think there are any subcultures today that will be as prominent as the skate or music scenes you documented?
I sure wish there would be, but other than internet "Anonymous" culture, I tend to think not, just because of the nature of things these days.
Do you get nostalgic over the Dogtown days?
When people ask me to.
What's the story behind the title My Rules?
First there was a photozine I self-published when I was 20, many years ago, and now there's a book! Both needed to be done, so I've done them, out of a sense of responsibilities to the cultures and my art.
In My Rules you ask your subjects to describe what it was like being at the crux of these cultural movements, what was it like for you?
Look at my pictures! It was an incredible time, exciting, inspiring, and vital. It's why I did what I did.
What are your top three life rules?
Life rules? Always live a life of integrity, do the least amount of damage to the planet and its environment as possible, be a part of the solution not the problem.
What do you like to photograph now?
Whatever inspires me.
My Rules is open now until 18th January 2015
Text Felicity Kinsella
All photography © Glen E. Friedman