Dave Brushback | Self-portrait

Remembering the Past and Seeing the Present with Dave Brushback by Daniel Makagon

Part of the Seeing the Scene Series

There is a tipping point that tends to happen when many people discover punk and get into the music. Some people need a few listens to make sense of what they’re hearing. Others need to hear a different subgenre of the music to align better with their overall aesthetic interests. Dave Brushback was sold right away. And he quickly found that participating in a local scene made for a more enjoyable and fulfilling engagement with punk culture. He jokes that people who don’t know him might see him as this “old guy” who treats punk like an archaeologist. However, anyone who knows Dave has quickly found out that the excitement he felt as a young kid discovering punk remains true many decades later. He searches out new photographers, new zines, new bands, and new DIY spaces. His photos have documented the way that punk has changed and stayed the same and he has been an important participant in various New England punk scenes. Dave has documented DIY spaces that exist for short periods of time; lifers who continue to make music, write zines, and form new bands; and he has contributed to a larger story about punk’s past, present, and future through his photography and writing.

Crawler at a basement show in Boston, 2019 | Photo by Dave Brushback

Daniel: I’d like to start by talking about how you got into punk.

Dave: That can be a long conversation

Daniel: It’s a good thing that this is a web column. We have space to talk through ideas. [laughs]

Dave: I’ve always been into aggressive music. When I was a kid, which we’re talking the ’70s, it was AC/DC, Cheap Trick, Judas Priest type stuff. I grew up in Maine, and I’m way up in Maine, too. I’m not down on the coast, to give some sort of perspective. You’re sort of limited as far as media in the ’70s: you get three channels on your TV, there’s no cable. So, I’m listening to music and I’m just reading magazines and stuff, which is typically like Rolling Stone.

Then one year when I was probably like twelve years old, I was on Mount Desert Island for the summer and listening to the big commercial album-oriented rock station FM radio station called WBLM. They would play Bad Company, Foreigner, and stuff like that. They were gonna play this Sex Pistols song, “God Save the Queen.” Note that it wasn’t getting played on the radio at all at the time. But they’re giving this big hype: “When it’s 9:00 and when it’s safe for us to play it, when it doesn’t break the rules, we’re gonna play this song.” For them, it was almost like a laugh, a joke, and it was a news item. But I listened to that song and I’m like, “Oh, wow.” They gave me like this brief glimpse, you know? They pulled the curtain back for a second. I didn’t really know what to do with that information at the time ’cause I’m not even near a record store.

Iron Maiden were slaying dragons or whatever. The Replacements were talking about hanging around at the bus stop or walking to the corner store…

It wasn’t until I moved out of Maine as I got older and moved to Connecticut, which was a bit more of an urban environment, that things changed. Again, I was into metal and rock stuff, but it didn’t exactly fit my lifestyle or my politics. They’re talking about drugs and partying and stuff. I’m a teenager. I don’t have a girlfriend, don’t have a driver’s license. I’m not part of the crowd that gets to hang out in the parking lot, being all cool. I’m kind of an outcast and then I stumbled onto the punk scene. I’m talking about ’83, ’84, ’85 that era. I started hearing stuff on college radio, on WCNI, and started seeking out some of those records at mom and pop shops. The shops carried Maximum Rocknroll, Flipside, and some real punk records: Dischord, SST, and labels like that. That’s when it really blew wide open. Within six months it was a complete reversal of what I used to listen to and what I was listening to then. The music made more sense to me. Iron Maiden were slaying dragons or whatever. The Replacements were talking about hanging around at the bus stop or walking to the corner store ’cause he has a crush on the girl, stuff like that.

Daniel: I think that’s a really important point. Punk bands modeled that anyone could do this but many of the punks—especially some of the early hardcore bands—didn’t look like rock stars. We could imagine their lives being just like our lives.

Dave: I think probably the first actual independent hardcore record I ever bought was the Not So Quiet on the Western Front compilation. I could see from the booklet that a lot of bands were kids. They’re not waiting for an adult to tell them it’s okay. Again, given the timeframe, that was a big deal. Maybe not so much now. And it’s happening in all these towns. Up until that point, my idea of punk rock was that it happens in New York; it doesn’t happen in Reno, Nev. Like I said, that was the revelation: people my age are doing it.

Now I had an outlet. I was doing a lot of drawing, cartoons, and comedy type writing. Everything I’d turn in in class would always have jokes and stuff. When I discovered kids who were self-publishing, making their own zines, that was huge. It’s like, “I gotta find a copy shop and I’m gonna do that.” I immediately started doing that. All my drawings and all my writing, instead of just being something that I kept personally, I could run off a bunch of copies and hand them out to people.

Daniel: We’re going to get to a discussion of photography soon, but I’m curious to hear more about your record store experiences. Were there people working in the record stores who told you about records to check out? How were you finding new punk records?

Dave: It was kind of half and half. I was relying heavily on the zines, so starting out, my collection was very California-centric: Circle Jerks and Dead Kennedys ’cause that was the music that was getting the big push. Like a lot of people did at that time, I would get the zine and check mark, circle, or write down what sounds decent from the reviews. Then usually at each store there would be the one kid who was kind of cool and sort of listening to new wave, but at least knew what punk was. You would feel comfortable with that kid when bringing the records up to the counter. Otherwise… it seems sort of weird that a store would carry records that they would mock, but that’s what happened. Hardcore was mocked back then: “You really wanna listen to this?” I remember saying to someone behind the counter, “Years from now this stuff is going to be really collectible. People will be looking to buy this stuff.” They laughed at me. They’re like, “No. You’re gonna be throwing these records away; no one’s ever gonna want ’em.”

Another breakthrough after that is when I started going to shows. Ray Cappo from Youth Of Today actually wrote me early on, when Youth Of Today was still only practicing. I had already put out a couple of issues of my zine, Run It, which was sort of haphazard and not very good. But I had done an interview with the Dead Kennedys in like 1985. They mentioned in the interview that there were a couple of kids with skateboards at the show harassing people and messing things up, and it turned out it was Ray and Porcell. Ray wrote me a letter to my zine, saying: “Ha ha, that was us.” Ray had this sort of personality where he sees new kids at shows and he shows ’em around, shows them the ropes. He was really enthusiastic at that time, young himself. He actually might even be younger than me, but he gave me a tape. Like I said, I’m paying attention to Maximum Rocknroll and I’m hearing, “SSD, Agnostic Front, all these bands are bad. They’re all conservative. Don’t listen to them.” Ray slipped me a tape of those bands, the New York and Boston bands. Then I discovered more Midwest and East Coast stuff, bands like Negative Approach, Jerry’s Kids. That music got me really pumped, but I was always looking around, being adventurous, so I didn’t stop there.

The other thing about this experience going to hardcore shows is that it affirmed for me that you don’t have to be older, like in your twenties, to set up and do shows. I’m in high school and I didn’t have a driver’s license. My parents weren’t rich; they were split up. I wasn’t anything fancy, kind of an outcast. But when I go to a punk show, everybody is like that; it’s all the unpopular kids all in the same room, all in the same parking lot.

Daniel: You’re really describing the kind of layering that happens for so many punks: start by hearing something or reading something, then there’s a need to find where to get more, and eventually the door opens to experience the punk world that seems to be “out there” but actually exists in one’s own town or city.

Dave: The Anthrax Gallery in Stamford, Conn. was that place for me. I was lucky that place was near me. It was probably an hour away or so but otherwise I really would have been stuck. Having a world class place accessible to me and getting to see all these bands I’ve been reading about. I had gone to a couple of punk shows before then but it’s really the Anthrax that changed things.

Then I heard about the CBGB’s matinees in New York on Sunday, like three o’clock. I started taking the train to see those. It was always like a snowball effect: the more people you meet, the more records you’re buying; the more issues of the zine I could hand out or sell; the more people I start to meet: Al Quint in Boston with Suburban Voice, the guys from Newport, R.I. in Verbal Assault and Brian Simmons, Mike Gitter from xXx, Dave Stein up in Albany. My car situation was always kind of weak, so I usually had to either take Greyhound buses, trains, or hitch rides with the bands while they were going to shows. I would ride in the van that Youth Of Today was driving, or Warzone.

It’s nice you wanna buy the records and sit at home listening to the records, but shows help you get involved with other people, learning what they are doing and having discussions, whether it’s political or personal.

That’s how I learned about punk being a big community where everybody looks out for each other. I don’t know if I can necessarily say it’s one hundred percent the case now ’cause punk is so big. Back then, if you saw a kid walking down the street wearing a T-shirt with a band you recognized, you stopped them: “How did you hear about this band? Who else are you into? Where do you go to see shows?” It was so rare outside of a show situation to run into somebody who was into this type of stuff that you get excited. I didn’t go to a high school where anyone was into punk or anything like that. I will say that as a general concept, which ties in with the book you wrote, shows are the punk scene. It’s nice you wanna buy the records and sit at home listening to the records, but shows help you get involved with other people, learning what they are doing and having discussions, whether it’s political or personal.

Daniel: Let’s finally transition to talking about your photography, since that’s the focus of this series. [laughs] When do you get into photography? And at what point do you start making punk photographs?

Dave: My father was a photographer, and he was into slides. He had a slide projector and a screen. He took a lot of photos and on the weekends my family would have parties and invite friends. He would show his slides and stuff: turn the lights off, set up the white projector screen, and showed twenty-thirty of his slides. All their friends would go, “Wow! Those are so great.” That made me familiar with taking pictures and what cameras do, but it wasn’t anything that influential on me where I thought, “Oh, I gotta be a photographer.”

It was out of necessity. I was doing the zine and the first issue had no photos. It was just all handwriting and stuff. There were no bands in it. The zine was just ten pages of me babbling. Once I discovered different types of punk zines, I started to see that one of the cool visual things is you put photos in it. That’s when I started bringing a camera to shows. I’m interviewing these bands, so I need photos. Literally, the second hardcore show I ever went to I started taking pictures. They were lousy, obviously. That issue came out and then I realized you’re supposed to be using black and white film because there’s more contrast. I was using color film ’cause it was cheap and I needed something to put in the zine.

Daniel: What type of camera were you using?

Dave: A crappy point and shoot. I never had a new camera. At the time you could go to any pawn shop and they would have like ten basic point and shoot cameras for ten or twenty dollars. I would just buy one of them, take it to a show, maybe four or five months later it breaks, or it gets stepped on; go to the pawn shop, buy another one. They were always getting beat up, smashed. Or I would develop the roll and, “Ahhhhh, this camera ain’t so hot. I gotta get a better one.” But it was all pawn shop cameras because I was never even considering that I was a photographer. I shot with garbage cameras and took garbage photos [laughs] for like twenty years maybe. Again, it was totally necessity, and there was never anyone saying, “Wow, you take great photos.” It wasn’t until I became a lot older, more of an adult, and started buying better equipment. That’s when digital came out. With film it was always sort of haphazard. Film cameras were cheap. Getting a roll film developed was like three or four dollars because every drugstore in the world did it.

I had no major improvement in my skills until I got a digital camera and then your shots are right in front of your face as you’re taking them. Okay, now I get it: I can adjust for lighting, I can do this and that. When you’re shooting film, you don’t see the photos right away; it’s so trial and error. You get the envelope with your twenty-four prints in it, and like three prints are good. But, hey I’m just doing a zine and I only need three pictures of the band I just interviewed. Three is good. Once I got digital that’s when I really started to think, “I can bear down here, and I can maybe try to improve myself to get something better.”

Daniel: You’re downplaying the quality of your photos, but I understand what you’re saying about using a camera that can show you what you need to change in the moment. It also seems like you’re describing a lack of resources that might have guided your work. Did you ever take any classes for film or digital photography?

Decisions at a basement show in Boston, 2017 | Photo by Dave Brushback

Dave: Self-taught, which is why I say to people I’m no photographer. But I had the digital camera and I was next to a couple of DIY house/basement-type venues that I was going to frequently. Nobody was bugging me and nobody else was taking pictures, so I kind of had the room to myself. I wasn’t fighting three or four other photographers trying to get the same angle or whatever, but that was 2007 or 2008.

Daniel: I had seen some of your photos but then Maximum did a Monday photoblog in 2011 that featured your photos from the Whitney House. I started looking for your photos regularly after that because they were really good.

Dave: That was another big difference with my use of digital. Instead of just getting a print and cutting it with scissors and pasting on a piece of paper for a zine, now I can post them on a blog and share them on the internet. Other people can see ’em faster—way quicker for the photos to get around.

Daniel: In addition to the shift to digital, what else helped you improve as a photographer?

PCP & The Knives at a DIY show outside Boston, 2020 | Photo by Dave Brushback

Dave: Yeah, I had no idea what I was doing before digital. After, I could start to get a better impression about the angles: where I should be standing. Probably the first bit of advice that was the most important to me along the way is something Edward Colver said. He was interviewed in Razorcake.  He said that the one tip that he tries to keep in mind is to get the people’s feet in the photo. If you get the floor, if you get their feet, it’ll be a better photo. Just heads and necks, or heads and shoulders, isn’t an interesting photo. That’s when I started holding the camera up above my head and dangling it downward so that I could get the floor. When you get the entire person in the photo, that right away is a one hundred percent improvement. It’s a more interesting photo.

I actually went back to film a couple of years ago and then of course shows stopped because of COVID. But I was a little bit more adept with it because I was able to use the lessons I’ve learned from shooting digital. Some of those things made me a little bit better with film than I had been before.

Daniel: Martín Sorrondeguy said something to me that seems applicable here. Shooting with film helps a photographer understand light, shutter speed, angling shots, and facilitates a kind of muscle memory so each form of knowledge works in tandem with other skills. That knowledge is carried over to digital photography. It appears that you worked in reverse: you developed your eye through digital photography, which allowed you to go back to film and make better pictures.

Dave: Martín, obviously, is incredible. The shots he takes I can’t even fathom. When I see his shots, I’ve never in my life taken one shot as good as any of the shots he posts. He obviously was a big influence as far as the way that he anticipates activity. He can anticipate action. There’s a lot of movement in his photos. A lot of the photos I take tend to be static: a guy standing there with his mouth open at the mic. I don’t have a lot of jumping photos or things of that nature, which are way more interesting to people. Mine are sort of like quietly composed and kind of static, I guess. They’re functional and they’re good enough for what I do. That is actually one of the things that, as you get better equipment—your flash is faster, film is faster or whatever—you can hit the button and you can get those shots. Or you can do a burst and get four or five shots of the same couple of seconds and then just pick the best one.

Daniel: To go back to your comment about Martín’s ability to anticipate action, both of you shoot a lot of DIY shows. It’s one thing to anticipate what will happen when you see a band a lot, but another when you see new bands in basements that may break up after a couple months.

Dave: Yeah, that’s a big part. If you’ve seen bands before, you know when the choruses are coming up, you know when the jump part is coming up, and you know that this is the part where they’re going to do a start and stop really fast. It gives you a better ability to anticipate action. Some bands will do similar moves: “Oh, this is the part where the bass player likes to jump” and they’ll actually do it again.

I’m always impressed when people see a band for the first time, and they shoot a great set of photos. Getting to a bigger city, moving out of Connecticut and moving up to the Boston area, meant I could watch photographers who were good. I got to see Angela Owens when she was in Boston. I saw the knack that she had, the angles she took. I always stood right in front of the band, and she wasn’t doing that. She was standing off to the side at almost every show. I realized that when she was doing that, she was getting crowd reaction in the shot, not just the band and the wall behind them. That might be common sense to most people, but I had to see it done first.

I saw Martín shoot at a show once in Boston. You get to see how people do stuff: Where do they hold the camera? How often do they shoot? Are they using a flash? I’m stuck. I always have to use the flash, which is kind of a crutch. A lot of the really good photographers are using available light; they’re not even taking a flash. I go to a show and I’m popping my flash off thirty, forty, eighty times. People are probably annoyed by it. [laughs] I can do available light better with film, since film lends itself more to being able to do speeds with available light. Not so much with the crummy digital cameras that I’ve had. I’ve never had anything high end. All my cameras have always been really low-end budget or used.

Daniel: Let’s talk a little bit more about the photos themselves. What are you looking for when you’re making a photo?

Dave: It goes back to the available light. I’m constantly in between: do I want photos that are really bright, or do I want them darker because darker could be more dramatic? I shoot black and white because, especially with art, I think in black and white. I don’t really think in color. People can see shades: purple, pink, blue, and stuff like that. They can do a mix where it’s interesting to look at, but I think in gray, white, and black when I’m looking at something visually. Sometimes you want something to be bright but with digital, brightness lends itself to being a little bit too crisp looking.

I started experimenting with trying to do stuff darker with more shadows. There’s a photographer in Boston called Omari Spears. The photos that Omari was taking always had shadows of the musicians against the background, against the wall and stuff like that. They are really striking. When I saw that I was like, “Oh, wow. That’s way more interesting.” Like I said, I’m taking a lot of static photos, not a lot of jumping and not a lot of action. But that’s what I’m aiming for, that’s what I like, something that’s sort of still—still as in not moving but also kind of dramatic. And Omari was able to do that right away and was able to achieve that look. Viewing other people’s work, I started to appreciate more darkness in a photo rather than just brightness. I was always looking for more flash in a photo, more light. Then I started to see that skin tone and shadows and stuff like that can be more interesting when the photos are darker. So now there’s that battle back and forth and then of course unfortunately the last year and a half of no shows scratched opportunities to work on that plan.

Another goal has been wanting to get more people in the photos. Cynthia Connolly’s Banned in DC book was important to me because it is crammed with photos of people at the shows; it’s not just bands. Up to that point all the photobooks and the photo magazines I was buying—like the photozines MRR printed and Gary Robert’s Loud 3D—had photos of the bands. Yeah, obviously the bands are the focus but you’re not thinking that this could be different when the photos are all the same. I got Cynthia Connolly’s book and it was like, “This is different, this is the life that goes on around the punk shows, which is as important as the punk bands themselves.” That seems really interesting and shares more life to the story. That was something that I have wanted to slide into what I am doing: taking pictures of people hanging out on the stoop before or after the show or being off to the side during the show. But because of the internet, people are not trusting. They don’t want their picture showing up where everyone can see it. Plus, I’m not the same age as everybody at the shows. If I was younger, that might make it a little bit easier.

Savageheads at a basement show outside Boston, 2019 | Photo by Dave Brushback

Daniel: The shows in Boston seem to skew a little older given my limited experience there. Places like the Democracy Center attracted a broader age range than what I have experienced in Chicago. But I understand that if you want to take a photo of a bunch of teenagers or people in their early twenties and, especially if the person you want to photograph is femme presenting, you could come off as a creep.

Dave: It can create uncomfortable situations. So, not only do you have the uneasiness of, “Why is this guy taking our picture? What is he gonna do with it? What is his purpose?” Also, especially in Boston, police are shutting down shows. A lot of these spaces where I’m seeing bands, you’re a guest in someone’s house or basement. Or it could be a DIY space that’s not licensed: a room that people can stand there to see a band. The way things go now, stuff has to be kept secret. You don’t wanna blow up anyone’s DIY venue. Also, it’s not something where I want to walk up to people and say, “Hey, I’m so and so blah blah blah.” I would rather take the shot because it’s much more natural. Since I’m not able to do that, it’s not something I’ve worked on.

Daniel: That makes sense. This tension you describe at the end has always featured in discussions about documentary photography: shooting and leaving or asking for consent to make a photograph. Documenting a punk scene as a punk for other punks means you have to think about the various ways those photos will function when shared. On that note, you talked earlier about changes surrounding punk and access to punk. As you said, when you started making photos, you were the only photographer in DIY spaces near where you lived, or one of a few. Now we often see multiple people making photos at any given show. How has that context changed your process?

Dave: I tend to like the more local bands, the more unknown bands. I don’t shoot pictures of the big-name bands at venues that have tickets, so I don’t really run into an awful lot of photographers. Taking pictures in the Boston area, yes, you would start to run into that more. My usual thought is this person is way better than me so I’m gonna stay out of their way. [laughs] One of the things when you’re a photographer that you may be trying to keep in mind is to not just keep clicking away the whole night. Get your few shots and then get out. Of course, there are times when I’m having trouble and I’m frustrated. I’m trying to get this shot and I have it in my head. I know the angle and I can visualize it, but my fingers on the camera aren’t making it happen. Sometimes I’ll stand there popping the button “boom boom boom boom boom” trying to get that shot, but usually—as I have been doing this longer—I’ll take five or ten and I’ll back away. Somebody else can stand there and I will go to the back of the room, staying out of people’s way who are there to see the band and staying out of the way of other photographers. But yeah, definitely, you start to see more and more photographers. If I see eight or nine photographers along the side, I tend to put my camera down. I’ve been talked to, unfortunately, before about that: “Hey man, there’s just too many photographers here. Can you guys just stop it with the flashbulbs?” That makes you a little bit more aware of how much of a hassle it might be to other people.

Charnel Ground at the Lilypad, Cambridge, Mass., 2019 | Photo by Dave Brushback

Daniel: Let’s talk a little bit about other types of photography that have influenced you or resonate for you. I follow you on Instagram and your posts reflect an interest in different genres of music. You post images of new records you bought, and photos of album artwork (especially jazz records). What kind of photography outside punk has changed your eye and/or how you think about photography?

Dave: I’m in my fifties now. I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but I always visualize the ideal person versus what other people see or what you see in the mirror. In my head I’m still a hardcore kid. That’s still my primary interest after all these decades. But yeah, I listen to a lot of different things. Jazz is especially a style of music where the photography is wicked important to the memory and the presentation of the music.

No matter who you are, how good you are with your instrument, how good your equipment is, photography helps make people’s memories of bands…. The bands that didn’t get their pictures taken are often the bands that are forgotten.

No matter who you are, how good you are with your instrument, how good your equipment is, photography helps make people’s memories of bands. That’s really the document. If you’re talking about early ’80s hardcore bands—Necros, Negative Approach, or whatever—because there are photos around, people can remember those bands. There weren’t a lot of videos from the past. Now, everything’s on YouTube. Every single band that plays, someone is going to put something up on YouTube. Back then video cameras were like the size of a Volkswagen bus. You just didn’t bring ’em to hardcore shows. There are records that you can listen to, but some of those records might not be totally accessible to some people if the records are rare. We have the photos of the band; that’s what people remember. When you talk about Black Flag or Minor Threat or any of these bands, the photos help us remember those bands. That’s the memory aid for people.

The bands that didn’t get their pictures taken are often the bands that are forgotten. You can’t recycle through and re-generate because they’re not in a documentary film when there is not a still photo to put in the film. And the photos of the band are not showing up in a new fanzine or a book about punk history. To me, photography is extremely vital to carrying on the legacy of all these bands, and you see that with jazz. Everyone knows Blue Note. The photos that Francis Wolff took are striking. There is a stillness to them. It’s all acoustic music, nobody’s plugged in. The photos are black and white and the framing of the images with the use of colors in the graphic design. That’s huge.

I love landscape photography and street photography. Again, I haven’t gone to any kind of school or taken any kind of classes; I’m hugely lacking in these areas. I can’t walk down the street, like some other photographers can, and see people doing something and then think: “Here’s a photo and I have both the equipment and the ability to capture it.”

Hardcore and punk shows can be a lot easier to shoot than just seeing an average indie rock band that stands in place. The singer has a guitar and is not just holding the mic while jumping around. They have to concentrate on playing the guitar, too. With those types of shows, you have to concentrate more on trying to make the shot interesting through the angle of the photograph. With hardcore, the palette is a little bit more available to you in terms of the visual cues. In no way am I trying to downgrade what hardcore photographers do. The photographers who are good are really, really good. More than in any other music scene anywhere, hardcore photographers are the best by far. But they have a subject that’s far more interesting to the eye.

Daniel: You and I have probably both experienced this where we share a photo of a punk show with someone who isn’t in the scene or doesn’t have a connection to punk and those people can figure out what is happening by seeing a photo. They might think the show is more violent than it is in reality, but they will understand. Whereas an indie rock photo, to stick with your example, might not convey something different than a photo of a pop band or a mainstream rock band.

Dave: A guitarist might be standing there and from the visual you can’t get an idea of what the music is like. Whereas, with a photo of a hardcore show, you can get an idea of what the music is like. Plus, hardcore venues just by their nature are smaller, so you are pressed up against the band. Those are more interesting photos. I hate stages, barriers, when there’s a fence. Basically, when there’s six feet between the crowd and the band, that doesn’t make for interesting pictures. There are photographers who can make really good photos out of that, but I can’t. When I’m in a basement that’s big enough for fifty people and there are fifty-three people there, the photos are more active. And they’re more interesting. It’s easier to get people into the photo, which can sometimes become the main part.

I know I said this earlier, but I think the documenting of punk through photography is so important. Photography is almost like the ultimate document that carries the hardcore and punk scene forward. Records play a big role since people can hear the music and love collecting the records, but to me at least from my mind, looking at the pictures helps me discover and find out about new bands while remembering the older bands. I don’t know if everyone thinks that way or is going to agree, but that’s why I’m putting it out there.

Daniel: I agree with your general claim: photography is a container for memory and a tool to document punk history. Most punk bands never get attention beyond their local scenes. They play small DIY shows. Some of those bands put out a 7” or a cassette, which will get some attention outside their region, but the print runs on those releases are small. The band breaks up after a year and really all that’s left is the photos. The photos document the history of local scenes.

Dave: The photographs also help the bands. I mentioned Angela Owens earlier. If you’ve got an Angela Owens photo, you’ve got something. You had an amazing photo that was striking to put on the cover of your record or that a fanzine could use for an interview.

It’s funny because I actually think more of myself as a fanzine writer than a photographer. Photography came along with it. But the writing doesn’t get around as much. It doesn’t travel as far as a photo, and most people don’t understand my writing anyway. I think photography is more important than writing as far as carrying a legacy. Of course, people read new zines and there are old issues of fanzines that people care about: Touch and Go, Forced Exposure, and MRR. Something like the Die Kreuzen review that Tim Yohannan did in MRR can feel like everyone of a certain generation read it, where he says, “This is fucking great!” over and over. Even if it might not technically be a great review grammar-wise, sentences and stuff, it had an impact. But again, photos really carry the legacy forward.

Like I said again for the hundredth time, I don’t think of myself as a photographer, but I’m always tickled when someone gets in touch with me and says, “Hey we wanna use your photos” or they wanna do a spread of my photos. That’s great. I think of myself as a writer primarily, as far as my creative outlet, but I don’t ever have anyone saying, “Hey, we want to reprint your writing.” People dig photos. Even my crappy ones. You know, that’s kind of cool.