5-12 October 2000



Shoot Your Mouth
by Brian Howard

Glen E. Friedman's words are as blunt as his photographs of bands and skateboarders.

In a world as gray as a New York sidewalk, there aren't enough people like Glen E. Friedman. Friedman, the photographer known for his shots of musicians and skate punks in books like Fuck You Heroes and Fuck You Too, exists in clearly defined hues of black and white. It's not necessarily because of his work, much of which is shot in simple two-tone. Rather, for Friedman most situations have two possible outcomes: his solution, and the wrong solution.

He believes in simplicity and intensity of expression, whether talking politics or shooting his deeper-than-documentary shots of bands. His art, an electrifying array of images ranging from shots of skateboarders in action to hardcore bands in concert to hip-hoppers striking poses, has always been shot with a Pentax K1000 camera. It's a tool that Friedman prefers for its simplicity, as he claims he's not the type of photographer who takes pictures all day hoping one in ten will be good. Instead he says he hunts a shot, composes it in his mind on the fly, and waits for the pieces to fall into place.

"I want to work on my instinct and I'm inspired by things of the moment," says Friedman on the phone from his home in New York. "I don't want fucking equipment to hinder me. Simple, clean, easy. I see something, I want to get it on film, done."

At the tender age of 13 he started shooting for SkateBoarder magazine. A skater at the time, he brought his own intense, skate-centric perspective to the medium. Since then, he's been at the forefront of several waves of American underground music, getting in deep with Cali punk rockers Black Flag, hip-hoppers like Public Enemy and Run DMC and DC hardcore heroes Fugazi. Friedman says he's more than just a chronicler of the young rebel culture which permeates his Fuck You books.

"That is me as well. It's not just something I shoot, it's my lifestyle. It's not something that's ever going to leave me."

(The books, he explains, are about heroes who say "fuck you"; he's not making an anti-hero statement. He's also put out a more aesthetically themed book of mostly non-band photography, The Idealist. Visit www.burningflags.com for more information.)

Intense, outspoken and just a little opinionated, Friedman is having his first Philadelphia show, "Fuck You All," at Space 1026 this week. He's close friends with Ian MacKaye, Fugazi's very staunch straight-edge (against drug and alcohol consumption) leader. And Friedman considers himself even more bellicose than MacKaye.

"I'm really aggressive with my ideals and pushing them on other people," says Friedman. "People say you shouldn't preach. I just think that's just some bullshit. I think people should preach and push on people whatever they fucking want to. I think it's important to tell people what you think, all the time. If I don't do it, I don't know who the hell will." It's this attitude that draws him to his subjects, and he doesn't shoot anyone he doesn't feel some sort of artistic or political affinity for.

Which is why it's doubtful that anyone will ever question where they stand with Friedman, including presidential candidate Al Gore, with whom he had words recently. Friedman found himself at an entertainment industry Q&A session with the Vice President, in front of a small audience that included the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Jon Bon Jovi and Sheryl Crow. Standing in his "worst Ramones ripped jeans" with a Noam Chomsky book protruding from his back pocket, Friedman unloaded on Gore.

"I got pretty riled up," he explains, as if it would be a shock imagining him in a huff. "I was giving the future president some shit. I told him face to face that he talks the talk but he doesn't walk the walk, or it doesn't look like it to me and my friends is what I told him."

Friedman, not surprisingly, is 100 percent behind Ralph Nader, regardless of the ramifications. "People should vote with their hearts, not with their fears You should vote for what you believe in, not against something. I think Bush is a fucking idiot, he's a fucking bumbling idiot. But if he won because I voted for Ralph Nader, fuck it, then that's fine. It'll just show people how fucking ridiculously pathetic and stupid the Republicans are and how important it is to vote with your heart."

The loquacious Friedman is always good for a soundbite, which is why he was a major focus of an episode of MTV Sports a few years back on athletes and art. But he feels his work stands on its own, whether or not you attach his personality to it.

He was into shooting photos of punks and hip-hoppers at a time when the two scenes were mutually exclusive. Years later, rock and rap have been officially wed to the point where you can't turn on the radio without hearing a rock/rap hybrid. Does Friedman feel prescient?

"I personally don't appreciate it, I think most of it sucks," he admits. "It's good that people understand. I always said they are very very similar, but they were similar and distinct at the same time."

Though he's never one to take the popular stance, Friedman doesn't see everything in black and white. He's against the indie "big is bad" credo. "There's no use preaching to the converted, but I also don't believe in selling out your art to help sell someone's products. I associate my work with things that I believe in. If there were a [multi-national] solar energy company and I believed that they were doing the right thing, I'd do all the work in the world for them."

Fuck You All, Oct. 6-27. Opening reception with the artist on Fri., Oct. 6, 6-11 p.m., Space 1026 Gallery & Studios, 1026 Arch St., Second Floor, 215-574-7630, www.space1026.com.