What I See By Glen E. Friedman, 257 pgs.

Sep 22, 2022

Black Flag’s enduring influence across several facets of punk/hardcore are inestimable—from the way bands approach/attack performances, to the use of cryptic logos as iconography, to the DIY approach to releasing one’s own albums, to the very touring circuit that’s still in use by bands forty-plus years after Black Flag first set out on the road, their fingerprints are all over the place. Likewise, Glen E. Friedman’s influence on punk photography, (along with Edward Colver, Alison “Mouse” Braun, Gary Leonard, f-stop Fitzgerald, Don Lewis, and others) as one of the genre’s early architects, is inestimable—think of an iconic photo of an early hardcore band and chances are good that you’re thinking of one of his shots.

Collected here are a treasure trove of Black Flag photos spanning the years 1980-83, starting with a gig at the Vern Auditorium (a one-off show put together by Joe “Vex” Suquette after the legendary East L.A. punk club Vex was evicted from the location of its first spate of gigs, Self Help Graphics) featuring Dez on vocals, to longest-tenured vocalist Henry Rollins’s first gigs, to the infamous “reunion” show at the Santa Monica Civic, right on through years of gigs before closing with some press photos of the Slip It In lineup, which by that time left guitarist Greg Ginn as the only original member still in the band, with photos of rehearsals and such thrown in for good measure.

The perennial smart aleck punker kid in me found himself enjoying sifting through the plethora of photos and marking the passage of time by the number of tattoos Henry accumulates and how long everyone’s hair gets over the course of the book. The more serious-minded art aficionado, not to mention unabashed fan of the band, however, finds himself just marveling at the plethora of great shots Friedman managed to get of the band in action and at their most feral—I can easily imagine having never heard a single note of their music, looking at these pictures, and thinking, “This looks like one hell of an intense band… and they look pretty fuckin’ scary. I gotta hear ’em.” Bassist Chuck Dukowski provides a foreword explaining how Friedman was given such clearly close-up access to the band, and Friedman himself writes an introduction contextualizing his desire to document the band, and punk in general, as well as the conditions—often featuring a very hostile L.A.P.D. looking for reasons to beat the shit out of band, audience, and anyone in between—under which the band performed and he snapped pics. “Crucial” doesn’t even come close to describing this tome. –Jimmy Alvarado (Akashic Books, 232 Third Street, A115, Brooklyn, NY 11215)

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