A Q&A with… Erica Echenberg, Punk Photographer

By October 3, 2016News

Erica Echenberg’s punk photographs are exhibited at Omnibus until Oct 7. They depict a fast moving and fast changing world, populated by familiar faces and interrogative stares.

Which is your favourite picture displayed in the exhibition and why?

One of my favourite pictures in the exhibition is the PUNK POGO shot. It was taken at the Roxy Club (Covent Garden) in 1977, and you can see that most of the audience have moved back to let the kids do their mid air dance. Pogoing became part of the ritual at a punk gig along with spitting (gobbing) and amazing homemade fashion. This picture shows the excitement and innocence of the time and how well the audience behaved. A young Shane MacGowan is the third punk pogoing on the right, in mid air. He later became famous as a member of The Nipple Erectors and then collaborating with Kirsty MacColl.

Do you think this type of photography could be done today?

I do NOT think that this type of photography could be done today. I think that this type of photography was unique to it’s time. There was a youthful innocence during this period that made the pictures more unique and special. It was not ‘selfie’ times when everyone wants their pictures taken and then start to pose for the shots. These were black and white years when a young new musical movement was being invented and tested for the first time and no one knew what was about to happen or what the future held. My equipment was basic and roll film was expensive so I had to try to make each shot count. Then the roll of film had to be developed in my tiny kitchen (which doubled as a darkroom) and printed from an enlarger onto photographic paper and dried on the floor! If I had enough money I would go to Joe’s Basement in Soho to get them developed and make a contact sheet to see the images in a positive format. This all took time and was not immediate as photography is today.

How would you describe the nights at the Roxy?

The nights at the Roxy were short but sweet. Only 100 days. I was lucky enough to be part of the scene and that made it possible for me to take pictures when I wanted and to record this unique time. I never experienced violence or trouble and there was a camaraderie which was very special. We were in a unique small group of kids with similar thoughts, love of music and experiences of good times.

What are they highlights of your photography career?

The highlights of my photography career are too numerous to mention as every time I went out to take photographs, some wonderful event would happen or I would meet interesting characters along the way. Working for Melody Maker, New Musical Express, Sounds, Record Mirror and later Kerrang! were wonderful times as well, as it gave me an platform to show my work and to get invited to amazing places. It was hard times too as the equipment was heavy and venues were far apart so tubes and buses were taken late at night. There were deadlines to be met which was always a challenge. But to be published and have a my name credit was a wonderful feeling when you were young and getting started.

What attracted you to being a photographer?

My father was a great photographer and picture taking was his hobby which he loved. This love of images and visuals he thankfully passed on to me. I went to Art college in Montreal, Canada and was inspired by my photography teacher there who had worked in the music business. I moved to London and started working for Ian Dickson who was a Rock photographer and became his assistant. I made contacts and was asked to take pictures for the magazines and then photography became my work and my life.

What do you miss about the Punk scene? What don’t you miss?

I do miss the innocence and magic of the early punk scene. Those were fast and furious times and I met so many amazing people, many of whom are still around today making music, taking pictures or being artistic. There seemed to be a lot of talent and freedom then and it let us start up bands, publish fanzines and invent fashion and to be who ever you wanted to be. Also women got a look in finally. We were no longer in the background but were now singing up on stage, shooting pictures and creating a special female bond and style.

Find out more: http://punk.london


Omnibus Team

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