July / August 1999
magazine for men
Photographs from the edge, by the man who framed skate
LL Cool J lounging against his ride, all lazy attitude and suave appeal, the embodiment of a rapper in '93. A lithe, ridiculously young Tony Alva, circa '77. skateboarding in the sun in a pirated pool. And Henry Rollins, muscles taut over skin, barefoot and screaming into the mike. All three photos captured in Glen E. Friedman's book The Idealist: In My Eyes - Twenty Years (Burning Flags Press, www.burningflags.com or (800) 655-4897).
Friedman is a photographer who breaches youth cultures, an insider in the world of outsiders. The link between his subjects is an over-the-edge energy, an outside-the-lines freedom. Because he is them he can take the kinds of pictures that no one else can.
Friedman can also say something no other photographer can: he has chronicled skateboarding, punk, and hip hop from their inceptions. He began shooting skaters when modern boarding got it's start in DogTown, West LA, and later shot the covers of many of hip hop's first albums. Henry Rollins says, "The bottom line is that he was there at the beginning of so much cool stuff in so many different areas, it's not funny." Ice-T's view on the photographer: When Friedman locks onto something it's absolutely scary. He is one relentless motherfucker."
This is a guy whose first book was titled Fuck You Heroes, and who followed it up with Fuck You Too. He's a strict vegan and environmentalist and he's vocal against commercialism. Once asked what he thought of Harrison Ford and Jodie Foster doing ads in Japan, he replied, "They are all fucking assholes, or they are just completely ignorant and greedy. Anyone who allows their art or name or likeness to be used to sell a product is the exact definition to the extreme of a sell-out."
Twenty five years after snapping his first skate photo, Friedman remains the perfect punk. "My personal interpretation of what punk is may vary from time to time, but generally it's an intense obligation one has to themselves regarding honesty and truth to their innermost feelings. "