In the beginning, there was skateboarding. Back in those mid-70's, when Glen E. Friedman first brought his camera to the school banks and empty pools, skating was played to a punk soundtrack that over the years gave way to rap. Throughout it all, Friedman kept shooting, amassing a portfolio of naturalistic portraits of his friends, many of whom went on to fame and fortune.

One of them, Rollins, late of Black Flag, ended up publishing this seminal collection of photographs, as part of his impressive publishing company. The coffee-table book (which was inaugurated by a brief bi-coastal exhibit of the photographs) is called Fuck You Heroes. Oh well, there goes Wal-Mart.
Not that Wal-Mart would have been a big market for the book, which is peopled with underground old-school skaters such as Jay Adams, cult heroes such as Fugazi's Ian MacKaye and Jello Biafra and establishment faves such as the Beasties, Rollins, Ice-T and Public Enemy.

In a lengthy, heated phone interview, Friedman, who remained unfailingly polite throughout, defended his use of the word heroic, even though the group included artists who promote misogyny, violence, homophobia, anti-Semitism and the willing participation in a system that they claim to be subverting.

Admittedly that's a mouthful, But, he explained, he didn't chose them for their social responsibility or political activism. Instead, they were heroes because they did things their way, at the expense of conventional wisdom or advice.

Now, Fuck You Heroes is Friedman's exhibit and his book, so he certainly is within his rights to package it any way he wants. And there's certainly no quibble with his work, which is revealing, naturalistic and deserving of attention.

When he talks in the book, though, about the dissatisfaction he now feels about today's world, I believe he introduces and then begs the larger question. "Toward the end of 1991, I began to feel that a serious amount of integrity was being lost from many people's lives, maybe even more than I had ever noticed before," he writes.

This collection, he continues, is "for our hearts to see and remember what we are all born with and hope we never lose - the hardcore soul of true integrity."

"Shouldn't we all be grateful to the individuals who say 'Fuck You' to those trying to limit the thinking and ideals of others? I think so," he says.

I have no argument with that. Indeed, Friedman's approach, his dedication and the quality of his photography should all be applauded. But since so many of the people in the book seem to exhibit the same narrow-minded behavior he accuses so many others of, I also believe it proves that heroes, like beauty, are in the eyes of the beholder.

Neil Feineman
Blur magazine 1995
(1 full page with several color photographs)