(March 1, 1997)


"Fuck You All" just about sums him up. You see, Glen E Friedman is a bit of an oddball. At the age of 12, he was hanging out in California backyards photographing skateboarders as they raided the empty swimming pools of the rich and famous. A couple of years later at the end of the Seventies, he was seen snapping away at every punk band who passed through LA, rapidly building up a body of work which mirrored the zeitgeist. It was this eye for talent and, most importantly, a genuine passion for anything that was groundbreaking that led him to be the first photographer to capture just about every leading exponent of the mid-Eighties hip hop explosion.

His recent exhibition (entitled "Fuck You All") at the ICA in London was worthy of attendance merely to watch the other punters. Seeing a hard-core punk studying an original Friedman print alongside a gangsta wannabe stroking his chin and leaning in close to take note of the lace-free trainers worn by Run DMC is a rare sight to behold. Add to this the dimly-lit, stripped out interior of the exhibition room and a ghetto blaster playing The Blues Explosion and Minor Threat and you have a entertaining afternoon of absurdities.

It is in this setting that the straight-edge vegan, Friedman, really gets to stick his fingers up at he high brow, extortionate, no-sense art world through his typed blurbs and, of course, his photos. Highlights include -deep breath- Henry Rollins looking skinny and tattoo-less; Public Enemy looking threatening, moody, alien and completely brilliant; various baby faced Beastie Boys looking bratty; Slick Rick, LL Cool J, Husker Du, Johnny Cash and various OGs in Compton; and Inglewood getting "tooled up". There are more recent photographs of Jon Spencer and The Make-Up-the latter providing the very first glimpses of America's finest in these very pages.

Friedman succeeds in his portrait of alternative American youth culture through his passion for music and his desire to only work spontaneously - no pre-arranged shoots for this pedantic yank. His photos of the Beastie (complete with VW signs, golf hats and Budweiser) perhaps epitomizes his work: he captures groups on their home turf in an embryonic state and then relays them around the world.

It is these images which unify such subcultures as punk, hip hop and thrash metal, the photos silently showing that, essentially, Fugazi's Ian MacKaye is the same as Ice-T in that they provide a radical departure from anything that has gone before. And they, er, like to fuck shit up, as the saying goes. For Friedman, anything that is new, subversive or wearing Nikes is the business, whether it's skateboarder Tony Alva with an Afro or Terminator X staring down his nose at you. As long as it's now, as long as it's new, as long as it's Fuck You.

The photographs of Glen E Friedman are now published in two volumes, "Fuck You Heroes" and Fuck You Too, through Consafos Press P.O. Box 931568 Los Angeles, CA 90093 US (213) 555-1212