Punk's Dead

In light of his new book and exhibition, Simon Barker chats to Dazed about the iconic and anarchic era

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The Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 1977 against a backdrop of a new and raw music movement; Punk. With its outlandish aesthetics and provocative lyrics, the likes of Sex Pistols and Clash raged against the establishment with their avant-garde anti-authoritarian mentality. Now, 35 years later, the music climate looks very different but the Monarchy is doing better than ever, as seen in the Queen's recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The state of Britain's iconic culture and musical heritage is examined by photographer Six aka Simon Barker, who’s book and exhibition, 'Punk’s Dead', reminisce about a short-lived era which resonates profoundly in British music and fashion history. Barker talks to Dazed about his book and exhibition on the iconic movement.

I wanted to alter the common misconception that punk was dark and aggressive, in fact it was quite the opposite. Loud, colourful, exciting, a coming together of so many different people making music, magazines, clothing, poetry, films

Dazed Digital: What was it about photographing ‘punk’ that inspired you?
Simon Barker: 
The interest and inspiration was entirely in photographing someone unique and beautiful. The glamour of individuality, as opposed to the homogenised look of the mass market is everything. Looking different not because you wanted to but because you had to. Initially we did suffer a lot of insults and derision from the media and the general public but it meant nothing to us, we knew we looked better than our critics.

DD: What lead you to want to publish the somewhat personal photographs?
Simon Barker: I wanted to alter the common misconception that punk was dark and aggressive, in fact it was quite the opposite. Loud, colourful, exciting, a coming together of so many different people making music, magazines, clothing, poetry, films etc.

DD: Can you describe the spur-of-the-moment-esque style of your photographs?
Simon Barker: My photographs are only spur-of-the-moment to a certain extent. I had to be very economic with the amount of shots I took for financial reasons so I would have to get the shot right first time, but with subjects like Siouxsie and Jordan it wasn't difficult.

Professional photographers shot the scene in black and white on their expensive cameras but true to the zeitgeist I decided to only shoot in colour and never focus the camera so I used the cheapest Instamatic available.

DD: What does it say that Punk lasted only a few short years yet had such a huge impact?
Simon Barker: You shouldn’t measure it by the length of time but by the amount of genuinely creative artists it produced. At the time we were incredibly naive and had no idea of the historical impact of our actions, without a thought to tomorrow.

Punk's Dead is on until 7 July, 2012, at DIVUS Temporary, 4 Wilkes Street, London, E1 6QF

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