rare photos of parisian punks in the early 80s
Memories of the scene preserved thanks to photo booths – "like Amélie, but punk."
It's 2017 and we're still hungry to excavate punk's past. The political and cultural era we now find ourselves in is reminiscent of the late 70s climate — the era that spawned punk. It was tumultuous, deeply divided and marked by rising inequality, though it also saw the rise of a new consciousness and strong pockets of resistance. Conversations about punk usually revolve around England, but across the channel, France had its own tight-knit scene (though cultural recollection is limited by the lack of documentation of the Gallic experience). However, if you dig deep enough and know where to look, you'll come across some gems — like this series of mostly photo booth pictures, taken and preserved by a group of friends who have now shared their punk youth on Facebook. It's a collection of images that captures the fun and freedom of a kind of family, who spent their time making music, filming low-fi videos, dressing up, and raising their middle finger to the world. After we came across these photos we tracked down tracked down Laul, one of the guys in the photos and former member of punk/ no wave band Lucrate Milk, who shared more of his personal archive and gave his account of being a young punk in Paris.
Do you remember the first time you felt punk?
Yes, I think it was while watching a music show on TV in 1976 or 1977. I was watching bands like the Sex Pistols and the Damned playing live. I was like, 'Fuck, that's straightforward! Now I understand!' Punk was visceral. These guys gave everything they had, without harmony but with great fury. You didn't need to understand the lyrics to seize their anger.
What did the movement mean to you?
I'd had a strict education. It was a great escape for me, I felt so restrained and the advent of punk made me feel free. I already liked disguising myself, I was looking to explore deeper sides of my identity. At the beginning, the movement wasn't just about wearing a leather uniform, a kilt and a mohawk. It was very creative and everyone had a different interpretation of it.
How did you dress?
I stole clothes from my dad and granddad in order to customise them. I had a jacket that I used to put a pocket watch in, but I dismantled it and hung each part of the watch from my jacket. I used to wear slices of sausage as earrings, or ham rinds as badges, and a mop tie. We were more into flip-flops than Dr Martens. Taking the metro was very risky, I could have been beaten up by rockers, teddy boys, skinheads, or cops. But you know, we loved being different. Being insulted was not a problem for us; it was a kind of game.
You were in a band?
Yes, I was a member of Lucrate Milk, a very strange, arty, decadent band. We were a small group of artists; Masto and Gaboni were photographers, Nina was a painter, and I was a kind of graphic designer. We just wanted to be together, we didn't want to please anyone, we were making video clips, but not to be on TV. While most punks had dark hair and pacifist ideas, we bleached our hair blonde and sang: "Long live war and fuck pacifists." It was provocation. We were brats. We finally split up because we weren't looking for fame, everyone began to like us, ugh… Nina was beautifully temperamental, she was like: "No gigs on Saturdays, I have to watch Dallas." She's great, now she's a painter and I think she's doing pretty well.
You and your friends used to spend quite a bit of time hanging out in photo booths.
It was popular, accessible to everyone. There was always a photo booth nearby. Faces are ephemeral as we are all going to die, so we wanted to leave a trace, like with graffiti. You can have a lot of fun in a photo booth: posing, making faces, fitting as many people as possible in the frame. We used to have a competition of who could bring the funniest thing into a booth — a puppet, a dog. Until Masto took a baby from a nearby stroller into a photo booth and got his ass kicked by the baby's mom. We were able to add DIY special effects before the pictures dried: folding them to create a double exposure. We also salvaged the discarded pictures under the photo booth.
Who are the people in these photos to you?
They are like cousins, a family that I chose. Those pictures are like a family album. We used to exchange photos like football stickers. We never stopped. And they are real memories, markers of history.
What do you remember about that time?
It was a big quest for ecstasy. A puerile parenthesis. We weren't into fighting for territories or shit like that. We loved roaming in unexplored places, abandoned buildings, cemeteries, hospitals, catacombs, photogenic places. We used to sneak into Père Lachaise cemetery with a ladder and move the ladder from grave to grave, racing, and going as far as possible to the other end of the cemetery without ever touching the ground. It was very fun and quite risky. Adrenaline is the cheapest drug. It was like Amélie, but punk.
Is it possible to be punk in 2017?
I was thinking about it this morning. Punk influenced everything: music, design, publicity, and fashion. We're all under influence. Logically, everyone should be punk, but today you have to be punk and ecologist, or punk and vegan. Being punk is awareness, but it shouldn't be a movement that forces you to be like this or like that. Every single person should have their own version, their own solution. You should not wait for others to be active or reactive. You have to be dumb not to be punk today.
Text Micha Barban-Dangerfield
Scans Jérôme Lefdup
Photos / Archives taken from the DVD Le Posthume Trois pièces de Lucrate Milk, the DVD Lucrate Milk - Archives de la Zone Mondiale and LauL's personal collection.