In-depth discussion with rock art photographer bev. davies including: hippie days with Neil Young and Joan Anderson (Joni Mitchell), shooting punk pioneers DOA and Subhumans, Motörhead in a park, David Bowie in a stadium, Brian Jonestown Massacre flipping off crowd and so many more. Also stories from backstage with Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister, Nardwuar collaborations, Duran Duran posing at soundcheck, and remarks about various Vancouver venues.
Plus insights about role of photographer as artist, conundrums of accreditation and access, reasons for a long hiatus, crafting the perfect shot, shoes versus sneakers, origins of calendars and exhibits, and plans for a book. Recorded August 2010 in Strathcona, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Load your film for: Punk Art Photog / bev. davies – Choogle On #122 – (59:35, .mp3, 85MB)
More to Enjoy
bev. on internets: Twitter, Flickr (since Sept. 2005) “Return to the Scene of the Crime” – bev. davies’ photo exhibit at Smilin’ Buddha Café (DaveO video) Building A Scene – Rock & Roll Photography – panel w/ bev. davies & Kris Krüg (DaveO preso at Northern Voice 2009 / Video + re-cap)
Bev Davies’ 144 Punk Rock Photos 1979-1984 at Gem Gallery, Jan. 5, 2007 (DaveO photo gallery)
Forgotten Vancouver Stories – comments and anecdotes by bev. (DaveO preso at Northern Voice, 2013) The black-and-white world of photographer Bev Davies – Article by Tom Hawthorn (March 7, 2012) w/ photos of Joan Jett, James Brown, U2 etc.
Extended Show Notes
- Recorded in Strathcona, Vancouver in Aug. 2010.
- Known for photos of DOA. First saw band on a whim, thinking they’d be huge, wanted to take photo because thought could be a career, never had a cover (until reissue of Hardcore 81).
- Favourite DOA photo came from going to Chicago and snapped classic shot of Randy Rampage on stage.
- Being a fan of discovering music: Brian Jonestown Massacre (and Anton especially as a photo subject) -– saw in a “Dig” film first (also with Dandy Warhols) and became fan.
- Attended Ontario College of Art / got involved in Yorkville “hippie scene”.
- Early days as a music fan in Ontario / Toronto area included seeing Neil Young (then in Myna Birds), Joanie Anderson (later Joni Mitchell), Patrick Sky at coffee houses.
- Moved west, first going to California, then to Vancouver, hanging out at “Hippie House” Thurlow and Robson.
- Attended Emily Carr School of Art where studied printmaking and photo etching.
- Tapped into music scene with bands including: Poppa Bear’s Medicine Show, Trial of Jason Hoover, Mock Duck, Mother Tuckers Yellow Duck, Yellow Brick Road at venues like Afterthought.
- Toronto had more connection with NYC (to get “famous”), different in Vancouver as was more raw enthusiasm In early music days there was a Vancouver / California connection.
- In 1977, started taking photos in 1979, saw first DOA show and realized she had a topic / subject to shoot.
- Presented herself to bands, promoters and so on in Vancouver as her own “company” and photographer as an artist – if not attached to a newspaper, hard to get recognition and limit to first 3 songs. Some bands were receptive and wanted someone to document their gigs and culture.
- Amassed large collection and archive – much of which is unpublished.
- Landscape of venues in 70s: Gombatto’s, Smilin’ Buddha, Legion Halls (on Commercial Drive) including Dead Kennedys and Subhumans – required babysitters for young son which made getting to shows challenging sometimes and created limitation.
- Taking son to shows: story of Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) and parenting “advice” from Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) including “pretending” didn’t like reggae so he could rebel.
- Conundrum of building career vs getting access. Story of Motorhead and Ozzy Osbourne as Kerrisdale Arena > Had photo pass from Motorhead’s management but Ozzy’s people denied > so Motorhead came outside to do photo shoot in a park with Fast Eddie, Filthy Animal and Lemmy (never published most of the photos due to agreement with record rep Tiny).
- Shooting for Georgia Straight > could publish one photo so she develop roll, hold up to darkroom light and decide which to print. Often alongside Ellie O’Day’s column “Faces” – mostly unassigned and created a “breadcrumb-trail” of her concert life.
- Local vs building “career” created conundrum of deciding to who to shoot. Wanted to photograph bands she like and who wanted photos without signing away rights.
- Example: Duran Duran at Commodore (shot poses at soundcheck) when next time, they were huge. Instead went to see Girlschool, Iron Maiden, and Scorpions.
- Also created frustration. Example: AC/DC wouldn’t allow her to shoot which upset her so she stopped shooting photos for 15 years!
- Re-sparked after Nardwuar conversation in 1998 at Joey Shithead’s Garage Sale which begat calendar 2007, plus hearing Anton and Brian Jonestown Massacre.
- Also sparked by advent of digital photography 2002. Had been unmotivated by absence of feedback, so was only taking “family photos” with point and shoot with friend Keith (RIP) as a tourist in US.
- Started 2005 on Flickr which also brought colour where before shot B&W exclusively. Sometimes shot colour. Example, 1983-5 Modernettes were wearing all B&W outfits so she shot in colour.
- Bought first digital. Wanted: regular batteries, smallest possible, switch to B&W quickly – seeing other people’s work on Flickr realized excitement in colour.
- Vancouver venues had different feelings, cultures, and policies.
- For photographers shooting, different attributes and policies, e.g.: Commodore used to be great, now so tight (only 3 songs…); David Bowie in BC Place 1983 (lock camera after 3 songs), shot run-through and copied setlist; Smilin’ Buddha was nightmare to shoot but no rules; York Theatre (better lighting) > Rickshaw (Richards on Richards lights but not well executed, no spotlights): RonR was good to shoot at because of relationship with Vincent the owner – was clubhouse like Buddha.
- While on hiatus, a lot of bands who didn’t shoot: Nirvana at PNE grounds (wanted to hear “Weird” Al version of Teen Spirit); hung out with t-shirt vendors – Nick from Pointed Sticks and Dimwit (just before he died), saw lots of Seattle bands shows, but no camera, just going with friend Keith.
- First met Nardwuar (in “normal” mode) in 1998 – first time met at Joe Shithead’s Garage Sale where was selling photos. Shared stories about Randy Rampage, Brad Kent – gave card for interview. Began collecting stories, created calendar which led to exhibition 144 Punk Rock Photos at Gem Gallery.
- Role as mentor for throngs of young photographers: “Love the music I love” – When artist says its art, its art. Moving away from thinking as photographer and thinking more as an artist. Realization of self as Artist rather than a photographer. Leads to anger/frustration about credentials and restriction.
- Shooting for the future. Binders and suitcases lead to being unintentional archivist and documentarian. Now can always have camera > didn’t always carry, didn’t want to open, used to stand on case. Didn’t set out to document > just in it for the music and band.
- When loading film, would shoot off 3 frames, many photos of feet at start of roll. Now personal archive includes many photos of feet/shoes.
- Also photos of band’s shoes / feet. Difference between bands who wear shoes vs bands who wear sneakers. Prefer bands who wear shoes (drummers exempt). Friend Corolla (Gem Gallery) and her noticed this “phenomenon”.
- When living in NYC, shot frames with no film with people posing in Greenwich Village.
- What constitutes a perfect shot? Example: BJM at Commodore, was kicked out but got shot of Anton giving audience the finger, leaning forward… got it.
- If made sense in developing tray, if could “read it”, would work well in newspaper. Attributes include: empty space, B&W space, shape, sensibility. Always shooting photos in brain, example: framing photos while riding bus without camera.
- Now, besides shooting bands, now shoots “breadcrumbs” of life, e.g.: cat, neighbourhood, including: shapes of bird droppings from perfect angle, and going on photo walks with groups to see variety of shots of same subjects.
- Working with Nardwuar on calendar, and then exhibition with Corolla at Gem Gallery, of 144 Punk Rock photos. Then, an exhibit at Chapel Arts with 24 photos commercially-printed, archival peel-and-stick plastic, mounted on industrial metal shelves. Seeds for 3rd calendar with Nardwuar. Shared photos for book about MTV – searching for John Doe (X).
- Collection includes unpublished shots of: Madonna, Bono/U2, David Bowie (video shoot, gave access pass to enthusiastic fangirl), Rick Springfield (had to look up on Youtube to make sure – reminds of Jessie’s “squirrel”).
- Wants to make a book but wants to control, doesn’t give away negatives, doesn’t do fashion (runway is OK) with perfect hair and makeup…, doesn’t want to delegate editorial control.
- Also, doesn’t take photos of illegal activities – when crowd got unruly at DOA show in 1979 at UBC, put camera away because doesn’t want to provide police evidence – e.g. wouldn’t have shot protests at Toronto G20 because police used Flickr photos to make arrests.
- Cup of Tea break…
- What’s your Fanzine? VOM.
- Conundrums with personal life and punk life. Examples: Phone calls from punk friends about “Idle Sluts”, and Edmonton with Maddog, Art Bergman tied up with phone cord nude on Kits beach.
- Art Bergman, cover of “Hawaii” shoot, ended up with square shot from Hasselblad, doesn’t crop so doesn’t get covers, ends up on back = more punk rock!
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