You may recognize Glen E. Friedman's photographic representations of hip-hop culture from landmark albums in your collection. His first idol-destroying collection, Fuck You Heroes, traced a history of three emerging youth cultures (skate, punk and rap), connected by their uncompromising hardcore attitude and DIY ethics. The second just published collection, appropriately-titled Fuck You Too, came about while Friedman was compiling The Idealist, a 20-year retrospective of all his photographic work. Left-overs from shoots that appeared in the first book were intended as an appendix to The Idealist, but soon grew into a separate project. While Friedman claims that the first book was intended as a "social statement", Fuck You Too is a less formal collection featuring a wider range of people who, though not necessarily heroes, he felt were just as deserving of respect. His aim is to bring about recognition of the sub-cultures that broke through by staying true to their roots. Cultures to which Glen is intimately connected. "I have a lot of friends who are skaters, who got into punk rock and then into hip hop. It's a radical, rebel, youth culture. I was hanging out there and documenting it at the same time. When there were things that I thought were worthy of wider exposure, that's when I would pick up my camera.

I thought, I want to help publicize these people because I respect what these people are doing. I want the word to spread that not everyone is complacent with their attitude towards life and what they're doing with their lives. Whether someone's 13 or 30 years old, if someone's doing something radical and trying to make a change or - like the early days of skating - doing something that other people aren't doing, then I want to capture it."

Glen's shots of the early Def Jam and Rush artists, namely the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Public Enemy and Eric B and Rakim, are iconic portraits that have helped influence a new age of image-conscious artists.

"Those were the first - for lack of a better term - professional images of hip hop ever taken. I'm always trying to give people the justice that is due to them, and help them express what they're feeling in their songs. Most photographers are just there for a day: they come in, shoot and leave. For me, it's life!"
Friedman's photos ring true simply because he shot his subjects as peers rather than as an outsider. Back in '76, Glen was a hardcore 12 year old, hanging the local skaters. He began to see his friends in skate magazines and, inspired by the work of Craig Stecyk in Skateboarder magazine (the skaters bible), started documenting the DogTown scene. Based around West LA, Santa Monica, Venice and the school yards there-about, his shots of acrobatic, four-wheeled feats in empty swimming pools soon found their way into Skateboarder (which in 1978 was the largest selling magazine in America).

In the early eighties, Glen immersed himself in the burgeoning LA punk scene, spearheaded by bands like Black Flag, Dead Kennedys and the Circle Jerks. "I went to more shows without my camera than with. I was there to have a good time, get out some angst, slam-dance and listen to good music."

When Skateboarder diversified (changing it's name to Action Now!), Glen's shots of the punk scene also found a home. He started doing shots for album covers, and even produced the first Suicidal Tendencies album (up until recently the largest-selling hard-core album of all time).

The connection to Def Jam came through Glen's friendship with the Beastie Boys, whom he knew back when they were still a bawling, bratty hardcore band in NYC. Hearing their first burgundy sleeved 12-inch on Def Jam, he hooked up with them when they came over to the West Coast as a support act to Madonna, and did a photo shoot just for the fun of it. "After Russell Simmons saw the shoot I did with the Beastie Boys," Glen recalls, "he decided that Def Jam and Rush would never have a group come to California without seeing me. I ended up helping them with promotion and always doing photo sessions with the groups that I liked, until the point came when they asked me to make back to New York in '86." Back then he would go to clubs in the Latin Quarter with Chuck D, Hank Shocklee and Bill Stephney. "I met Chuck D at a Run DMC show before there was even a group called Public Enemy. He knew my work and respected me, and I respected him. I heard his demos and thought, this is gonna be the shit. I gotta be down with this group. I want to be the one to do their album covers because they're going to be important. I wanted to help this overtly political rap group get going. I wanted to give people the images that they deserve." Friedman's photos, neither airbrushed nor pixelated, possess an immediacy and attitude lacking from studio-based shoots, of which he has an aversion. "Early on in rap, and even later, a lot of the stuff was done in studios and I thought that was really pathetic and horrifying. Here you've got the most vital new music scene going, so why put it in a sterile environment to photograph it when it has this incredible environment around it? I've almost never done anything in a studio." One of his few shoots resulted in the infamous cover of Ice-T's Power album. The Gucci-sporting Ice, his bikini-clad wife Darlene and DJ Evil E all holding pump-action shotguns remained a talking point for years. But in the main Glen's shots are all about capturing the moment, whether it be kinetic (gravity-defying acrobatics of legendary skaters Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva), personality-based (a delinquent, beeper-wearing Ice-T by the Hollywood Freeway) or even political (PE dirtying the stars and stripes with their combat boots in the cage-like confines of the It Takes A Nation Of Millions shoot).
"Nowadays the whole nature of media and publications has changed. Everyone has video cameras; everyone knows how to take a pictures with auto-focus cameras. You can be on the internet and MTV. A band doesn't even get to play a live show and they're already on TV. The same with hip hop. You don't start by rapping in clubs as much as you used to. If you've got a demo tape that you produced yourself, you can get a hit record! There's much less development and I think that is a negative thing."

ECHOES February 1997

(1 huge full page with photos)