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the largest selling English newspaper in Asia

The Japan Times
Saturday, May 2,1998

Rebellion in the Blink of a Lens


"The people in my photos never followed the herd," says 35-year-old photographer Glen Friedman of his images of hip hop, punk, and skateboarding legends.

"Unfortunately, most young people today tend to follow what others say too often without question. But my photos are about non conformity; They are anti-conservative. The skateboarders, punks, and, hip hop artists have a lot in common. They were or are very rebellious young people trying to speak their own minds, and by doing so they have affected the culture we live in, whether one realizes it or not."
Like the name of his first book, Friedman's subjects are "F**k-You Heroes", people whose vision often clash with the status quo but who succeeded through their own strength of character. His photos of musicians such as Public Enemy and the Beasties Boys or skate kings like Tony Alva can currently be seen in his show "F**k You All" at Space Edge Gallery in Shibuya.

From the age of 14, Friedman bore witness to the cultural Zeitgeist of his generation. Speaking by phone from his home in New York, he explains it as the result of " a lot of luck, instinct, and perhaps the fact that I was a little shy myself."
"If you analyze it, you see I was really using these people along with my talents to communicate ideals that I wanted to share with the world. My images were able to do this in a way that words could not."

As a kid in the late 70's, he photographed the skateboarders of Dogtown, a Californian group that established both the style and the attitude of skateboarding. Anyone who has seen a sneaker commercial, watched MTV, or worn baggy shorts has been influenced by their legacy.

The aggressive energy of skateboarding met its' musical match in punk rock, and Friedman trained his camera on many of punks many interesting and important characters. He even had a stint as the manager of LA punk band Suicidal Tendencies. Sensing a similar energy in hip hop, Friedman was soon documenting that scene, shooting covers for the Beasties Boys and Ice-T, among others.
Friedman's photos aren't solely social documents, however. His work captures not only the historical moment, but also the visual one of pure energy and expression: a skateboarder catching air for a gravity defined second or a transcendent moment of connection between performer and audience.

"My favorite images all involve simple classical compositions, with intensity, character, and emotion, when people are the main subject. In skateboarding I wanted to show the style and the radical maneuvers from the skater's perspective, but it was really important to me that you could see their eyes too, " the photographer says.

"You don't have to be a skateboarder to appreciate these photos because of the character in my images; I think all human beings can relate to that."

The aesthetics of rebellion have become a pervasive marketing tool, separated from the spirit of the subcultures that Friedman first depicted. For him, though, there is no division between his artistic and political sensibilities. " I have a certain level of integrity and a certain set of moral values that I am trying to promote politically and artistically," he says.

"I'm trying to present a certain rebelliousness and open-mindedness and to demonstrate how healthy it is. My aesthetic is presented for others to appreciate, but for me it is a way of life. I am hoping my pictures will inspire people positively."
Though political activism too often is just another glamorous accouterment for celebrities looking to buff their image, Friedman literally puts his money where his mouth is. His environmental concerns have led him to vegan vegetarianism, and he is not afraid to passionately voice his opinions.

"Education from honest sources, unmotivated by profit is the real key to our ultimate salvation on this planet, " he says. " Escapism is something corporations and their puppet governments like people to practice. Smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking drugs are all conservative acts, in my opinion, that do nothing but give the status quo and those who control it more support.

"I am against all kinds of mind numbing substances because I want to be in control of my own thought and facilities at all times. We need to be in touch at all times, otherwise the negative for profit forces will destroy us all. "

The photographer is particularly interested in having young people interact with his work. Given the current anxiety about Japanese youth and the inertia of the authorities trying to deal with it, Friedman's exhibitions could not have been better timed.

"F**k You All", An exhibition of Glen Friedman's photos, is at Space Edge 'til May 10th; 3-36-17 Shibuya, (03) 3409-8723. An opening party is 7-10pm tonight with a skateboarding expo by Japanese pro skaters. "F**k You All" is sponsored by Super X, a bilingual action sports and independent culture magazine.

article included one B&W photo ,  Jay Adams 1976 West Los Angeles