LoDown mag (Germany)
spring 97

GLEN E. FRIEDMANN mind state


I don't know exactly when it was, but when I was around twelve years old I started taking pictures thinking that I wanted to get them in magazines I used to hang out with probably the best Skateboarders in the world, and all of a sudden you see them getting in magazines, so I said "well let me just try, I take some pictures and submit them to the magazines and see what happens." And, really, once I started doing that, that's when I started getting really involved into photography, because the first time I ever sent pictures to the magazine they ended up getting published. I had a lot of confidence, you know, in what I was doing, because I started taking pictures when I was that young just with a little pocket instamatic camera, and even then I was kind of capturing things that I thought had a unique feel to them, relative to what I was seeing in the magazines as a little kid back then. I was reading Skateboarder-Magazine, that was like the bible back then, but there were still things I thought, even as a little kid, that maybe could be improved upon, I was seeing them in my backyard everyday, things which weren't in the magazines.

I was very motivated to show the real truth of what was going on everyday. That was probably around 1975-76.

I honestly never concentrated that hard on photography, when I was like 12 years old I took a photography course at school and I didn't even get a good grade, but 9 months later I had my first published photograph. Over the years even carrying a camera, taking photos, was second nature, but it was also second in line to what I was doing, I mean, I would more often skate originally and take photos later. All these things that I photographed were always a part of my life before I photographed them I think a big part of why my pictures speak to people the way they do is because the things I'm photographing are usually thing I'm very interested in, and you know, that kind of translates.


There was a whole other generation of skateboarders from the 60's, bet when it started again in the 70's, I was definitely right there before it really blew up and got ridiculously big. I was a skater myself, I mean, I was skateboarding since like 1970, just on the sidewalk, I was just into it, it was part of the lifestyle, moving out to California, that's what a lot of people just did back then, I happened to be lucky enough to live in DogTown, which is West Los Angeles, you know, Santa Monica, Westwood, Venice, that whole area West Los Angeles people would consider themselves as the guys from DogTown.


After several years a lot of skaters started getting into bands, there was music being played in the background whenever you went skating, someone always had a tape-deck with him where you could hear music at the same time you were skating, skateboarding and music were always very closely tied together.

When punk rock started coming up it was really tied even closer, because punk rock had that same attitude that skateboarding had, at least in the circles I traveled, that same overtly rebellious, hard-core, fuck-the-world-we-gonna-do-what-we-want-attitude, so the two meshed together really well. And then, when friends of mine were in bands, or when I started to see bands that I thought were really great influences on what was going on in society, I took it upon myself to photograph them. Skateboarder-Magazine in 1978 had over a million readers, the biggest Punk rock-bands in America were only selling about 5,000 albums, and I thought what they were saying was really important so I wanted to give them the publicity and expose people all over the country to them. And since I'd been working for the magazine at that point for several years and had quite a reputation they trusted me to bring them interesting music stuff-and in it helped spread punk rock across America. At that same time I was taking pictures all the time for the magazines, but I also started getting more and more into the music, hanging out with people like Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, being in the studio when they were recording their albums, or the Adolescents or TSOL. I shot the album covers for the Adolescents, my first album-cover and China White's album-cover, those were all Frontier Records.


Around 1982-83 punk rock was like beginning to fade for me a little bit, it was becoming a bit generic, and hip-hop hadn't quite exploded yet, but finally it was getting onto vinyl. It seemed like hip-hop was almost an extention of punk rock, it was almost like a black kids' version of pun rock, it was their rebellious art-form. Punk rock was like kids rebelling in a way against glam-rock, or the shitty old hardrock. Hip-hop was kind of like a response to the shitty old disco. When the Beastie Boys came out to California on their first tour, they were touring with Madonna, and I had known them five years before as a punk rock band. Just for fun we shot photos while they were hanging out in L.A. They brought them back home to Rick and Russell, they hadn't even had a major-label deal yet, I mean they had only put out their first few singles on Def Jam as an independent, but they saw the photos and they were real happy about them. From that point on, whenever they had one of the groups they were working with come out to California, where I was living at then time, I would shoot them. So I was able to meet all these people and start portraying Hip-Hop in a realistic style, before that there had really been no photographers who were associated with Hip-Hop, who really gave it the respect and the quality it deserved. They all seemed kind of surprised that I was so enthusiastic about their work, and that I knew so much about it. They hadn't had themselves at this point too much interaction with white kids either, and at the same time I was hanging out with them I was exposing them all to punk rock, too, and showing them where I was coming from. I became friends with those people.

Originally, the first groups that I shot were Beastie Boys and the Fat Boys, and U.T.F.O.. I shot Run DMC, Public Enemy, I shot their very first album cover, and their second album cover, Run DMC, I did the 'walk this way'-single, 'it's tricky'-single, Beastie Boys, I did singles for them, from the 'license to ill'-album on up through the 'check your head' album cover.

Ice-T I knew when he was still living in a garage with Darlene, I did all of his first few album covers and singles that had photographs on them. I can't tell you all the bands that I've shot, but most of them were shot usually before they got big and famous. Sometimes when I was shooting hip-hop bands maybe they didn't know me right away, but after the first day they saw I was someone who had a very strong opinion, and usually knew what the Fuck they were talking about, unlike most people they would normally deal with and I became friends with most of these people. I just wasn't a photographer coming to shoot the and kiss their ass and then leave. I was trying to make an impression upon any one of these people I have talked with.

Some of the first, early shows I went to in L.A. at the Olympic Auditorium where U.T.F.O. and Kurtis Blow played, and it was right around the time 'Roxanne, Roxanne' came out, there were maybe 10,000 people there and I definitely didn't see any white people except for me. Maybe one critic, and that was it. At that point in time it was pretty interesting, and it was also pretty cool, people thought you were kind of nuts, they thought 'This is a black thing, what are you doing here'. But at the same time they respected you and appreciated that you were doing it, but a lot of people just didn't quite understand it at that early, early point.

Later on, just a year later, at clubs and stuff like that, there were a couple of others white people around, maybe there'd be 3 or 4 white people in the whole joint where there's a couple hundred people there.


I still listen to a lot of that HipHop from that Golden Era, you know from 85-88, I still listen to a lot of old hard-core-records, and I still listen to a lot of old rock'n'-records. But the same thing is true now that has always been, I like any music that seems like it's got a lot of integrity and is just really loud and hard and aggressive and driving, modern punk rock; I just don't think there's that many bands that are interesting, of course there's some exceptions. A band like the Make-Up I think is incredible, and of course Fugazi is probably the greatest band in existence of all time, I still think they are phenomenal. But you know, I listen to the Wu Tang Clan, I listen to Snoop a little bit. I still listen to modern hip-hop artists, but they just don't have the quality of songs the people used to have. When we used to go to punk rock of hip-hop shows we had it to ourselves as a group of people for quite a while before it got exposed to the mainstream. You need a chance to develop outside of the camera-lights, within your own group before the media dictates to you what they expect of you, and then just follow in their footsteps. I've been to a couple of raves, and I thought it was really interesting, and for a while I thought that might be the next thing. But honestly, because of the way the media is set up nowadays, where everyone has a video-camera and desk-top-publishing, and MTV and all these different things that are going on in the world, I think because of all this over saturation of media, things don't have a chance anymore to develop, the way they did at one time. And that's to out detriment, I think it's interesting to some degree that you get to hear about something right away when it's cool, but bands and artists and creative people need time to develop on their own.


People that I've portrayed in these books are heroes, that say 'fuck you', they're heroes because of the 'fuck you'-attitudes. they're heroes that become heroes because they stand up for what they believe in, they speak their minds and they say what they want to say. The term 'fuck you' best describes what they do, and what they're doing to society.


Nowadays I'm mostly just working on promoting my books and making another new book, about all my art-images that I've created over the last 20 years, meaning things like landscapes, and some photographs that are musically or skateboard-connected that were more artistically motivated. Definitely things are slower than they used to be as far as my actual creative output of taking photos is concerned. I never shot a lot of film, I still don't, and sometimes I'll go six months without even picking up a camera.

Das neue Friedman Buch "Fuck You All" ist soeben bei Burning Flag Press erschienen. Buch Bestellungen call: 001 800 655 4857. Glen Friedman wird im Sommer 97 in Deutschen Citys seine Bilder prasentieren, check out LoDown for Updates.

This interview was transcribed from an interview on KISS-FM radio in Germany.

(2 page spread w/ lots of color photos from FYT)