Paul Gorman is…

All The Way From Louisville: Leee Black Childers

Apr 7th, 2014

The last time I saw photographer/manager Leee Black Childers – who has died aged aged 69 – was fleetingly, a year or so ago at the crowded launch of his book and exhibition at London’s The Vinyl Factory.

The first time I saw Childers was at The Speakeasy at a March 1977 concert by his charges The Heartbreakers. The poster for that gig, featuring his London rooftop portrait of the band, hangs behind me as I type.

That night and for the rest of his London stay over the next couple of years this Southern gent could be spotted at such haunts as The Ship in Wardour Street, his presence notable for lacquered pompadour, authentic sharkskin suits and slick black winklepickers, his reputation bolstered by the knowledge that Ian Hunter had dedicated Mott The Hoople’s All The Way From Memphis to Childers – who, in fact, was raised near Louisville, KY – and that he created the apocalyptic collage on the inner gatefold of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs LP (which now appears spookily prescient of the devastation of 9/11).

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//The inner gatefold of my well-worn copy of Diamond Dogs showing Childers’ apocalyptic photographic collage//

Childers appeared awfully frail at the Vinyl Factory launch, so news that he had been rushed to LA’s Cedar Sinai hospital during another bout of book promotion a few weeks back was worrying but not unexpected.

In conversation in 2009 Childers revealed a promotional plan for his book then in preparation: he wanted it to be published after his death so that he could be utterly honest about his extraordinary life and set of acquaintances. The promotion would consist of a series of pre-recorded chat show appearances, all ready for broadcast as soon as he expired. He wondered whether the likes of Jay Leno and David Letterman would be up for it.

Well, it wasn’t to be. The book came out and though unwell he appeared to be enjoying being back in the spotlight.

I am told Childers’ archiving was ramshackle and can find no website dedicated to his photographic work. This is shame because no one was embedded in and simultaneously chronicling the demi-monde of glitter, glam and punk, of Warhol’s Manhattan, Iggy’s LA and McLaren’s London, in the manner of this charismatic soul.

Sayonara Leee.

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David Parkinson: Fashion photography’s forgotten figure to be a GQ Icon

Apr 4th, 2014
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//Front cover, Club International, 1974. Paul Raymond Publications. Photo: David Parkinson//

Ahead of the publication of my piece about the late photographer David Parkinson in GQ UK in a few weeks, here are a couple of masterful images which demonstrate his stylised,  simultaneously gritty and glamorous approach.

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//Front cover, Man Only, 1974//

Both stem from issues of men’s magazine Club International; the 1974 cover shot model is wearing Parkinson’s decorated Lewis Leathers jacket which he used to dress other fashion photo-sessions. The image was also used on the cover of Italian soft-porn title Man Only.

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//Acme Attractions photoshoot for Club International 1975 including (left) Martin Brading and Don Letts and far right Steph Raynor. Photo: David Parkinson//

The spread above focused on the suits and menswear available at Acme Attractions, the Kings Road vintage/retro outlet co-owned by Parkinson’s Lesicester friend Steph Raynor, who appears in the photograph with Acme’s manager, filmmaker/DJ/BAD member Don Letts, and Parkinson’s assistant, photographer Martin Brading.

Raynor is among those who contributed to my feature on Parkinson, who is granted the accolade of ‘GQ Icon’ in the June issue (available at the beginning of May).

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‘The second nastiest little man I have ever met’ – John Deakin: Under The Influence + The Lure Of Soho

Mar 31st, 2014
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//Deakin drinking, 1960s. John Deakin, courtesy Robin Muir//

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//The cover of the new book features this 50s portrait of author JP Donleavy//

“The second nastiest little man I have ever met” – Barbara Hutton

“He was a member of photography’s unhappiest minority whose members, while doubting its status as art, sometimes prove better than anyone else that there is no doubt about it” – Bruce Bernard

The documentary portraiture of British fashion photographer John Deakin from the 1940s to his death in the early 70s is poised for a fresh round of appraisal with next week’s opening of the exhibition Under The Influence at London’s Photographers’ Gallery.

This coincides with the publication of Robin Muir’s companion book of the same title.

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//Girl In Cafe, late 1950s. (c) John Deakin, The John Deakin Archive 2013//

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//Tony Abbro of Abbro & Varriano, newsagents, Dean Street, Soho, 1961. (c) John Deakin, The John Deakin Archive 2013//

Muir is Deakin’s foremost proponent, responsible for 2002′s A Maverick Eye. This collected Deakin’s so-called “street photography” in London and on the Continent compiled during bouts of employment for British Vogue. As the title suggests, the new book focuses on the inhabitants of the stamping ground most associated with Deakin’s lush life: Soho.

On Deakin’s death in May 1972, his friend and subject Bruce Bernard rescued what comprises Deakin’s body of work in this field  from a set of tatty cardboard boxes under the bed in his Berwick Street flat.

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Photography: David Parkinson shoots Acme Attractions

Jan 16th, 2014
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//Original print of photo for Club International, 1975. Models include, from far right, Stephan Raynor, Don Letts and Martin Brading. Photo: David Parkinson//

I’ve been enjoying researching materials relating to the late photographer David Parkinson for a feature for GQ magazine, so thought I’d share some of the images I dug out of the Parkinson archive concerning the 70s King’s Road retro clothing store Acme Attractions.

Parkinson’s position as fashion editor of Paul Raymond’s sophisticated soft-porn magazine Club International enabled him to style and present Acme clothing for a wide readership, on occasion using the shop team as models.

Acme was opened by Parkinson’s friend Stephan Raynor (they’d known each other since they were part of a gang of style-obsessed teenagers in Leicester in the early 60s) with John Krivine, previously a Brixton-based jukebox dealer, in 1974.

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//As the Parkinson photograph appeared in the magazine, flipped and tinted. Note ref to “Acme Tailors”//

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//Parkinson used ties from his collection – including some sourced from Acme – for this March 1975 Club International feature//

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Photography: Inside Seditionaries and down the King’s Road 1977 with Homer Sykes

Dec 17th, 2013
VIVIENNE WESTWOOD 1970S KINGS ROAD CHELSEA

//Vivienne Westwood in felt Inside Out Jacket with assistants Debbie Wilson and Michael Collins in Seditionaries, 1977//

While updating his rich and varied archive, photographer Homer Sykes came across these superb photographs taken inside Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s boutique Seditionaries at 430 King’s Road in the spring of 1977.

The images capture the air of raw uncertainty surrounding the shop and the McLaren/Westwood coterie in this period. McLaren’s charges the Sex Pistols had recently been signed to their third record company in six months – Virgin Records – after being publicly excoriated for their behaviour and bounced out of EMI and A&M. The national media had seized upon punk as a source of sensationalism and the release of the Pistols’ explosive God Save The Queen was a matter of weeks away.

1970s FASHION KINGS ROAD LONDON UK

//Debbie Wilson (aka Debbie Juvenile) sports Hangman Jumper, Seditionaries, 1977. Note the studded Venus Top and leather jacket on the wall behind the counter//

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//Westwood expounding against the photographic mural of Dresden after WW2 air-raids, Seditionaries, 1977. Note Collins’ Cambridge Rapist design produced by Westwood’s partner Malcolm McLaren a couple of years earlier//

1970S INTERIOR OF VIVIENNE WESTWOOD BOUTIQUE

//Behind the customer in black bondage jacket is the wall-size inverted photographic mural of Piccadilly Circus, Seditionaries, 1977//

On Saturday August 20 1977 Sykes again took to the King’s Road to document the atmosphere of unrest embodied by the outbreaks of violence caused by marauding Teddy Boys targeting punks and such boutiques as Seditionaries and Boy.

TEENAGERS 1970S KINGS ROAD TEDDY BOY FASHION

//Young Ted bops while another’s jacket mourns Elvis Presley’s recent death, King’s Road, 1977//

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//Musician/actor Gary Holton and girlfriend Tracy Boyle lead a demonstration against violence between Teds and Punks along the King’s Road. Far left is punk Mick Bladder//

Some of his photographs feature the punk Mick Bladder, whose arrest on that day in August 1977 was featured in Wolfgang Büld’s Punk In London. This documentary  shows how the movement’s initial creative burst swiftly dissipated, while Sykes’ images capture the ways in which a cult movement had entered the mainstream, infiltrating the media, music, fashion and the wider culture.

Sykes’ archive covers the waterfront, from social unrest including the Notting Hill Carnival riot of 1976 and the riots in Toxteth and Brixton in the early 80s, to the on-the-road antics of Paul McCartney & Wings and Sigue Sigue Sputnik, the New Romantic haven the Blitz club, Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World and Quentin Crisp . Visit www.homersykes.com.

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Photography: Grab a chance to go see Tom Sheehan’s Analogue

Dec 4th, 2013
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//Courtney Love, backstage, Reading Festival, 1994. © Tom Sheehan//

Tom Sheehan may be known as a “rock photographer” – a déclassé term for any old snapper with access – but is really an exacting and highly adept portraitist who chooses musicians as his subjects because, put simply, music is his abiding passion.

I write as someone with the inside, having first encountered Sheehan in the late 70s glory days of one of the finest London pubs of our individually but carefully compiled experience, the eccentric Wickwood Tavern, situated in Camberwell’s Loughborough Junction, hosted by the glorious Syd and his pot boy Roy and populated by a wild and wonderful set of attendees from Mad Pat Collins to No Neck Neenan to George O’Dowd.

Right back then, when Sheehan was making his bones as a freelancer for Melody Maker and various record companies, his love for, and knowledge of, music knew no bounds. Consequently, as I devoured everything I could get my hands on at that age, I gained an education in the distaff likes of, say, John Cooper Clark or Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks.

We reconnected a couple of years ago; following Tom’s Instagram adventures is but one of the pleasures of falling back into Sheehan’s circle.

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His current exhibition Analogue has been rightly acclaimed a success, and the run justifiably extended until December 17. If you’re in town do yourselves a favour and grab the chance to take in Sheehan’s cool, calm and collected body of work.

Analogue is at Lomography in Spitalfields – see here.

Visit tomsheehan.co.uk

 

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Delirious New York: Legends Bobby Busnach + Gerry Visco, The Park Royal Hotel, the South Bronx scene and Boston’s The Other Side

Nov 22nd, 2013

//Gerry Visco in SEX Cowboys t-shirt and leather miniskirt, The Park Royal, NYC, 1976. © Bobby Busnach//

These captivating 70s images stem from the amazing photographic archive of New York DJ legend Bobby Busnach.

Many feature Busnach’s friend and muse, the fabulous writer/photographer/performer Gerry Visco, as well as the circles they moved in at NYC’s Park Royal Hotel, Boston disco/bar The Other Side and the nascent hip-hop scene in the South Bronx.

//Visco, Hillside Avenue,Boston, 1973. (c) Bobby Busnach//

//Donnie Ward, Hillside Avenue, 1974. © Bobby Busnach//

//Tony Roldan (centre) at the handball courts at 146th Street and Brook Avenue, the Bronx, 1976. © Bobby Busnach//

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Last few days of Punk @ SHOWStudio: Why this exhibition is true to the wit, elegance and design skills of the McLaren/Westwood partnership

Nov 18th, 2013

//One wall of the ShowStudio Punk exhibition//

In the period 1972-78 when the body of the partnership’s punk fashions were created, Malcolm McLaren’s art education and development as a largely conceptual visual artist was applied with Vivienne Westwood’s intuitive and sophisticated technical skills.

The resultant potency of the work was achieved by such factors as: balance in the proportions; deft use of juxtaposition; confidence in realisation; jarring harmony in the use of colour; wit in the application of motifs; and astute sense of framing, particularly of text and visual imagery.

Excerpt from introduction to my review of the McLaren/Westwood designs in the Costume Institute collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, summer 2013.

Precision, deftness, balance, harmony, these are terms unjustly omitted from the standard  critical lexicon applied to punk’s central design aesthetics as conceived and realised by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood and their coterie.

Which is why Punk @ ShowStudio, the elegant exhibition which is now moving into its final week at photographer Nick Knight’s Belgravia gallery, is to be applauded, since it avoids the run-of-the-mill in favour of recognition of the importance of these qualities.

“I was very impressed. It was inspiring to see what I like to call ‘the origins of Punk’ as opposed to the usual well documented ‘greatest hits of Punk’,” the collector/archivist/author Paul Burgess wrote to me recently.

//Part of Judy Blame's contribution to the exhibition//

Read more about Punk @ ShowStudio here.
The exhibition is open every day 11am-6pm until Friday at 19 Motcomb Street, London SW1X 8LB.

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Handbags, gladrags, fragrances, films, lectures + twitter spats…Barney Bubbles’ undimmed lightbulb of inspiration

Nov 14th, 2013

//Olympia Le-Tan handbag based on artwork for The Damned's 1977 LP Music For Pleasure, with promotional t-shirt for Fred Burns' documentary Johnny Moped Basically using 1978 lightbulb design//

So potent is the creative legacy of the graphic design master Barney Bubbles – who died on this day 30 years ago – that he is continually cited as an inspiration by contemporary visual communicators, while his name and work is attached to all manner of endeavours.

Recently, Bubbles artworks were chosen by the French fashionista Olympia Le-Tan to lead her exclusive collection of handbags. Meantime Tokyo lifestyle label retaW has named a range of fragrance products “Barney*” in celebration of “the many album covers he was responsible for in the 70s and 80s”.

//Barney* products named after Bubbles by Japanese lifestyle company retaW//

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Interview with Nick Logan in anniversary issue of Arena Homme +

Nov 4th, 2013