As analogue lovers, there’s no telling in how much we adore film photographs. Seeing one’s shots on actual prints and compiled in a book brings visual elation and self-gratification. Photos on Pages is a new series which features photo-books by great photographers. In this second volume, the spotlight is on Michael Lavine and his fortuitous documentation of the grunge aesthetics.
Featured Book: Grunge
Featured Photographer: Michael Lavine
Category: music, rock, and street photography
Publication: Abrams Image, October 2009
“Grunge? Bad name. Lame name, actually.” — According to the photo-book’s 5-page foreword, authored by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore. He writes about the discovery of Seattle punk youth, the seminal bands that molded the movement, the exploitation of the subculture, the backlash of grunge, and as well as the death of his long-time collaborator Kurt Cobain.
The term grunge bears two phases: one being ridiculous, horrible, & completely straight-up dumb and the other one being beautiful, smart, and amusing [shrug within the American scream-dream]. Ironically, even though this photo-book itself is entitled Grunge, it is not really about the definitive evolution of the musical movement which put Seattle in the rock ‘n’ roll map. It is rare look back on the iconic genre, a trip down the punk clubs and alleyways which gave rise to Mudhoney, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and so much more. The book itself is a personal experience of Lavine.
In the first half of Grunge, Michael Lavine, a New York-based rock photographer, took pictures of street punks & goths and scene kids & mods. These images make up the best portion of the book, having “Sir Plus,” an image of androgynous teenagers, as its foremost photograph. The succeeding images are various portraits of unfamiliar faces cloaked in various uniforms that define their identities: anarchy pins, cigarettes, flannel fetishes, goth hawks, leather jackets, ripped jeans, skateboards, suspenders, and even trenchcoats — all of them honestly staring into Lavine’s camera.
The second half of Grunge moves into band photos. The headlining images are primarily the ones of a pre-bald Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, a pre-fame Cobain, and a pre-barber Cornell, amongst others. Aside from the aforementioned grunge groups, the following are also featured in the photo-book: Babes in Toyland, The Honeymoon Killers, Redd Kross, Soundgarden, STP, Velvet Monkeys, and many more!
“The sensuality of this on-its-own and on-the-loose subculture is sweet and rough in the faces and stances of Michael Lavine’s early-eighties Seattle street series. The attitudes pronounced in the later band photos are the delirious celebration and the excited, creative manifestation of the former subject’s self-inflicted promise. The bands of this generation had already learned from punk that rewards were cheap in rock ‘n’ roll. What really mattered was to be able to stare back at the audience, the camera, and the world, like a mirror challenging you to break it.” (Thurston Moore)
“By the end of Grunge, both Lavine and his subjects seem to have their eyes set on other styles and stories. But the rare, vulnerable moments of anticipation and acceptance make Grunge most memorable.” (Brendan Fitzgerald via popmatters)
Which of these super fuzzy Grunge photographs by Michael Lavine strike your liking the most? What other photo-books by well-known photographers would you like to get featured in the Analogue Lifestyle? Let us know through a comment below. Stay tuned for the next volume of Photos on Pages! For more information on Michael Lavine’s life and works, you may visit his website at www.michaellavine.com.
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