Kevin Salk was at the right place and at the right time. As a self-described angry and alienated teenager in the ‘80s, he found solace in the punk scene — frequenting gig spots such as Whiskey-a-Go-Go, The Vex, and The Cuckoo’s Nest to catch some shows. With his blue hair, motorcycle boots, and other punk paraphernalia, he also sported a very important accessory of all — a film camera. He documented raw and powerful snapshots of an important time in punk history when esteemed punk bands such as Black Flag, Misfits, Minor Threat, and Descendents were just starting out.
Today, Kevin is 55, a father to two young adult daughters, and works at an investment banking company. Recently, Fathom Gallery hosted an exhibit called Punk Rock: Photos from a Fan’s Perspective, showcasing Kevin’s photographs. We had a little chat about his years as a teenage punk and what he’s currently up to.
I was born and raised in Manhattan Beach, CA and still live there. It was a great place to grow up. I graduated from Arizona State University. One of my passions is riding and racing my bike, I ride for Big Orange Cycling. Music is another passion of mine, my tastes are eclectic — Hendrix, Zeppelin, Miles Davis, Social Distortion, Bad Religion, Slayer, Black Flag, among others. I grew up in a musical family; classical or jazz was always being played.
A couple of my childhood friends started riding their bikes to the Fleetwood in Redondo Beach (one of my life regrets). That club was probably the most violent of them all. After they started having all the fun, I decided to join them. I started to cut my hair short, wear motorcycle boots and chairs and other punk rock paraphernalia. We would go to the Whiskey a Go Go, The Starwood, the Cathey de Grande, The Cuckoos Nest, and many others. My bands were Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, Minor Threat, The Germs, and pretty much everyone else. The shows were electrifying and violent. That was the element I liked, being different but with a group who I can identify with. Drugs were not for me and going to college was never a doubt. It also really bothered my parents which was, of course, an added bonus.
Kevin admits that he wasn’t really into photography when he started documenting the punk scene. ” I got into it more after I got a Minolta 35mm for my 17th birthday. I also took a class in high school on photography which taught me how to develop my photos in my home darkroom (bathroom).”
Nowadays, it is pretty common to see people in concerts taking photos and videos with their mobile phones and uploading them to social media. We asked him how it was back then, taking photos at a time when social media is non-existent.
I was a skinny kid with a camera. What helped was that I became “friends” with Black Flag. It gave access to the stage which gave me the confidence to go up the bouncers and bullshit my way on stage to take photos. That kept me out of the slam pit. I developed pictures in my bathroom and made copies for my friends. I remember making a stamp that said “Photos by Kevin Salk” and put them on all my copies. Sharing with my friends was perhaps the first stage of “social media sharing”???
Currently, Kevin still takes pictures, but mostly of his daughters and his trips. ” I am starting to get interested again. I will be purchasing another camera and start to take some shots of some bands. I want to shoot Pennywise when they are practicing … gotta talk to Jimmy and Fletcher on that one!”
Follow Kevin on Facebook to see more of his photos!