SHEILA ROCK – Young Punks
“Young Punks” by the renowned London-based photographer Sheila Rock is essentially a photographic journey that perfectly embodies and encapsulates the spirit and excitement of British punk rock in the mid-to-late 70s, and the great thing about this huge, beautiful book is that its content goes beyond the actual music, the fashion, or the various social factors that we associate with said genre. Sure, the songs and records as well as the clothing, make-up, and hairstyles were obviously at the center of the punk movement, but more importantly, there was a unique attitude that coursed through Britain at the time with respect to punk music and the youths who were attracted to it, and Rock’s piece of work highlights and emphasizes the vibe and atmosphere as well as the mindset of the entire punk culture splendidly. There was revolt and rebellion in play, but as Rock’s impressive opus shows, there were youths who essentially reinvented themselves and suddenly found great joy in creativity, and “Young Punks” is in many ways a celebration of that.
What makes “Young Punks” such a fascinating and revelatory read is that its focus often shifts from bands to fans, which is to say that Sheila’s photos possess a fly-on-the-wall quality and depict adherents of punk rock enjoying themselves at shows, hanging out with friends, drinking and partying, laughing and cracking jokes, and enjoying the tribe-like essence of it all. There are also numerous portraits of various musical acts and outfits included with the most captivating ones being those of Chelsea, Generation X, and Eater.
These youngsters may have moved outside the established confines of society and the movement was arguably rather short-lived in the sense that it fizzled out practically a couple of years after it came into existence, but “Young Punks” embraces and examines the cultural impact and importance of this particular moment in time and why it continues to resonate with us today while simultaneously illustrating what it meant to be a teenager or a young adult in certain parts of society in the UK in the late 70s. It serves as a fascinating comment on the human condition within the sphere of punk rock back then and I recommend studying this 287-page hardback if the zeitgeist of that genre appeals to you.