Sheila Rock on punk

The legendary photographer on the generation she shot

Fashion Insider
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Blondie wearing Zandra Rhodes, 1977 Photography Sheila Rock

I float through life – I always manage to meet interesting characters, artists, musicians and the mavericks of this world.

I'd known some people from the David Bowie scene and had met Lenny Kay from New York City who was then Patti Smith's guitarist. Patti came to London to play at the Roundhouse, Lenny mentioned that he was going to see a new band called The Clash at the ICA and said I should come along too. That was my first punk experience and all the important people were there that night.

From a fashion perspective, it was Don Letts and Jeannette Lee who were then at Acme Attractions who opened my eyes to punk. Acme wasn't just a shop, it was a fashion destination, a place to be seen and I met a lot of people there too.

Siouxsie  1976
Siouxsie, 1976 Photography Sheila Rock

I don't think anyone knew it would be so historically significant. It was clear that a new energy was emerging and something very different was happening. Its roots were music but it was also expressed in the way people were dressing up I just snapped what I thought looked strong.The shoot I did with the Clash stands out. Maybe because these boys, even though young, had such a strong look it seemed easy to get a good shot.I went to their rehearsal studio in Chalk Farm. It was an impromptu shoot and I didn't know what to expect. The Sniffin' Glue and movie posters made a great background, the band looked like young rebels. Bernie Rhodes, their manager, used one of those pictures for their first Roxy gig and paid me £50 as a usage fee. I couldn't believe my luck.

It's surprising to me that I did so many photos and captured the mood of the time. PUNK + is a document of an extraordinary time. I'm very happy about launching at Browns next Thursday, with Don [Letts] DJing, as well as the response from press and people who lived it 37 years ago.

Punk is often associated with a nihilistic attitude and an aggressive stance. That was not my own experience, nor was it some of the people in the book. For me it was a creative time and allowed people to discover who they were. I'm hoping my book stands out as an affirmation of that.

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