"People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest and boldest animal rights organization in the world. PETA believes that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment - period."

January 2003
Out There // 2 Spotlight

Interview with Glen E. Friedman

Even if you haven’t heard of Glen E. Friedman, you know him. He’s the man behind some of the most famous photographs taken of the people you know. Fugazi, Beastie Boys, INC, Russell Simmons, Pearl Jam, and System of a Down all have defining photos by Glen. He also shot pro skateboarders, including Tony Alva, Alan Gelfand, and Tony Hawk.

Glen sold his first photograph to Skateboard magazine at age 13 and has personally shaped the skateboarding, punk, and hip-hop scenes.

His photographs are captured in four books:
Fuck You Heroes
Fuck You Too
The Idealist—Twenty Years in My Eyes
Dogtown—The Legend of the Z-Boys

Dogtown is a companion of the movie of the same name, and Glen was also co-producer of the film.

Check out Glen’s Web site at http://www.southern.com/BURNINGFLAGS.

Glen has been vegan for 15 years. It is an important part of who he is, and he wants everyone to know. Check out our conversation below.

PETA2: What influenced you to become vegan?

GEF: Specifically, it was some friends of mine that gave me some literature to read many, many years ago. … I read John Robbins’ Diet for a New America as well as Diet for a Small Planet—that had a lot to do with it as well. Both of those are very inspirational, and they kind of break it up the same way. They talk about the environment, they talk about the animals, and they talk about your own health. Over the years, being a practicing vegan, I began to be much more sympathetic to the animals’ cause, and now when I see people eating certain things, I definitely think of the animal before I think of anything else.

PETA2: And how was the transformation? Were you vegetarian first and then vegan?

GEF: Well, back then there weren’t as many vegetarian restaurants as there are now. I live in New York City now, and there are dozens of places where I can get amazing vegan food all day long and all night long, so we are really lucky, but back then there was only one restaurant that I knew of. When I first started, which was over 15 years ago, I think I probably decided to cut out all meat products except fish, and then I still was eating fish and dairy products for about six months, and then after that I cut out all the fish and any animal products. The thing that made it really easy for me was that I was staying at a friend’s house who was vegan and I saw that it wasn’t that hard—you know, that I could do it—and that was the inspiration that I could do it, and I walked away from there never eating meat again. I wanted to make the transition but didn’t do it ’til I had that example set for me. From the day I started to the day I was completely vegan was less than a year. It was also a lot harder back then than it is now. I think people should be able to make the transition a lot quicker nowadays because there are so many options. We have so many soy, seitan, fake meats, so it is really not that hard—Soy Delicious ice cream and Tofutti Cuties, soy yogurt, and there are just so many vegan alternatives now, I don’t think it should take that long at all.

PETA2: Do you have an animal rights issue in particular that you are more passionate about, that pushes your button?

GEF: My main issue of animal cruelty is to stop eating animals.

PETA2: There is a much higher percentage of vegetarians and vegans in the punk rock scene and the skateboarding scene than any other movement or any other group. Have you noticed that, and why do you think that would be?

GEF: Well, in general, I would have to say that punk rockers and skateboarders have a more open mind toward things. They are very intelligent communities, for the most part, they are very intelligent scenes, and they are people who really are pretty rebellious and don’t just accept what is given to them at face value. They question things, and they look at the things themselves, and they educate themselves, and they know that the way to do things is to do them themselves and to find out on their own what is really going on in the world and not trusting authority, necessarily, all the time. It’s people like that who are going to find out the truth about how corporations poison people and how they don’t care because they are making money. You know, people see it with cigarettes. What makes you think it is any different with food? It is a matter of education and open minds and thinking clearly, and caring about being sympathetic to animals and the environment. Anyone who is halfway intelligent would see that being vegan is the way you gotta go.

PETA2: What would you offer as your message or piece of advice to the skateboarding/punk, “Generation Y” communities?

GEF: Don’t wait for other people to educate you. Educate yourself, because if you don’t educate yourself, you are just going to be brainwashed into what they want you to think. Look at your friends, look at rap stars and punk rock stars and skateboarders, and look at the ones who are old and look healthy and look at the ones who are old and look fat compared to when they first started making records. There are so many old rock stars and hip-hop artists that you can see now and they look disgusting. Some of them can barely breathe. If you want to live like that, you will not be able to breathe and will die of a heart attack before you are 50. But these decisions obviously affect people in a very personal way, it affects the planet in a very serious way, and it affects the animals in a vital way.

PETA2: What are the staples of your diet? What are your favorite foods?

GEF: Well, being in New York, I have so many choices, it’s unbelievable. I eat a lot of Asian foods, I eat vegetable sushi, rice-based stuff. I also eat a lot of soy-based stuff and seitan products. More often than that, I try to stay as organic as I can, with beans and seaweed and steamed vegetables. Fruit is a very big part of my diet.

PETA2: What is your favorite restaurant in New York?

GEF: I don’t have a particular favorite, but there are a lot of different restaurants that I like. Angelica’s Kitchen is awesome because it is all organic and all vegan. I mean that is just an amazing feat. Kate’s Joint is a really great place because it is just a cool hangout and most of the people there are vegan and it is all punks and skateboarders. It’s in the East Village. It’s awesome because they have vegan cheesecake, club sandwiches, all kinds of great things that they make vegan style, and they even have vegetable juices there. That place is great. Zen Palate is an old favorite. There are three of them in Manhattan. Red Bamboo is vegan soul food. Then there are places in Chinatown. A lot of people might not realize that even in their town, if they go to the Chinatown in their town, they are more than likely to find an incredible vegetarian restaurant in their own city that they didn’t even know existed, but almost every Chinatown has a great vegan restaurant. In New York there is House of Vegetarian, and there is also Vegetarian Dim Sum house—it’s everything that you would find in a normal Chinese menu, but it is all vegan. All these fake meats that people hear about now originally came from the old dynasties and the old emperors years ago, when they had to be vegan for six months out of the year to be pure to enter the temple. For the part of the year that they were vegan for their Buddhist diet, the servants created these fake meats so they wouldn’t have to miss those foods when they were practicing their religion. So they have been around for thousands of years. These soy meats, soy chicken are not new, they are actually old. If you don’t have any allergies to soy or wheat, then these things are amazing.

PETA2: Have your vegan or your straight edge views ever come through in your work, your photographs, the subjects you have chosen, or how you have portrayed something?

GEF: Well, most of my work is politically oriented, or the people I work with are. I have people wearing vegan T-shirts or straight edge T-shirts in my work, but usually a lot of the people I work with think the same way I do, and even if they don’t, when they are working with me, I kind of try and inspire them to think like I do. On my Web pages and in my books, my veganism and straight edge philosophies are always mentioned, and in every interview I always make it very clear so people understand that I am vegan and I am straight edge. It’s a good thing to represent. Some people need that inspiration or support from someone else doing it so they understand that other people are doing it and people are practicing it.

PETA2: What was the last thing that you captured on film?

GEF: I have mostly been working on a show that I opened in L.A. last week. I haven’t been shooting that much. The last thing I captured on film were pictures of clouds, actually, that I did for myself for people to recognize the beauty that is here on the planet itself that is already around us and always changing.

PETA2: Do you have upcoming projects that you can share with us?

GEF: Well, I have been working on my new show. Before that it was the Dogtown project. That was taking up a lot of my time, and that along with keeping my other books in print and dealing with most of my archives is what I have been doing over the last couple years. Not that much new work that I can think of, and the plans right now for the future are just reprinting some of my old books and working on a new book, and other than that, I am just going to go down to Chinatown to eat at House of Vegetarian today!

Veganism is not that big of a deal. The problem is that sometimes at Thanksgiving and holidays, socially, it does upset parents and family, and they sometimes take it personally if you don’t eat their food. You have to let them understand that you love them, you love that they care about you and they are cooking for you, but the way they cook their food is just not the way that you eat and you don’t feel comfortable eating animals, and it is nothing personal to them. People, especially older generations, will take offense to that. John Robbins talks about that pretty thoroughly in Diet for a New America. Dealing with your own family is one of the biggest hurdles, and grandmas don’t like it when you don’t eat their food. Hopefully, they will understand and respect you enough to maybe make some vegan food for you.

on-line version