Jim Saah grew up in the DC area and began photographing punk bands early in the 1980s. Like many of you, I’ve seen various photos taken by him over the years, particularly of seminal DC legends like Minor Threat, though I may not have known at the time they were taken by him. His pictures have also appeared in the book Banned in DC, and he was one of the creators of the documentary Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, D.C. However, despite my general familiarity with his work, I saw a lot of fantastic photos I’ve never seen before in his new book, In My Eyes.
And fantastic they really are—so many of these photos perfectly capture the intensity and excitement of a live show (so sorely missed by many of us during these pandemic times!). And happiness! That’s one thing I really enjoyed about the photos—it looks like people are having a good time (sometimes maniacally, but whatever). There are numerous photos that focus specifically on the audience rather than the band. Looking at the sweaty bodies all crowded together, you can easily imagine how warm (and smelly!) the room must be. Along with DC regulars, I was happy to see some DC bands that aren’t always given significant attention, such as Black Market Baby, Marginal Man, and one of my personal favorites, 9353. However, even with the well-covered bands, like Fugazi and Black Flag, there are photos in the book I’ve never seen before (Fugazi at Lorton Youth Correctional Center, for example), and also some great “hanging out” shots of The Damned, Nation Of Ulysses, and others.
There are a few bands included that I wouldn’t necessarily put in the punk camp (Stereolab, Foo Fighters, et cetera), but it’s not my book and I’m not going to split hairs over such a thing. Likewise, it would be nice to see more women and people of color, but these are Saah’s historic photos of shows he attended and bands he loved, and, for better or worse, we can’t change who was in the room. In addition to the stellar and dynamic photos, there are a couple of interesting interviews with Saah at the end of the book, and a very enjoyable introduction by Jim Saah himself—I loved that he specifically referenced how punk opened his mind to politics and the power of protest music. This is not just a coffee table book, but a visual reminder of why punk is so important! –J. Federico (Cabin 1 Books)