STRENGTH magazine (vol.2 No.8) ON-LINE VERSION

GLEN e. FRIEDMAN by Heidi Bivens. Fucking Hero - Keeping It Real.

"Jealous toys, that's all- they were never there and they never could be. It's not something you can go plan and do, it just happens around you when you live a certain way. I don't hate anybody but greedy conservatives, and those who try to dictate how others should live. Anyone who's got beef with me it's probably 'cause I've made them feel inadequate, by pointing out how they've fucked up in some way, and you know people would rather not have to deal with that. So they say I'm difficult, harsh, an ego maniac - fuck'em! I'm just trying to do the right thing with all my heart, and my closest friends all know that."

Aesthetically documenting skateboarding since the urethane wheel, Glen E. Friedman has influentially become a household name as a photographer. His well-received photo books Fuck You Heroes and Fuck You Too include shots Friedman captured for some of the first skate magazines including the original SkateBoarder. After years of taking skate flicks (his first shots were published at age 13), Friedman began to shoot photos of his friends that were in hardcore bands, and eventually began to shoot photos for rap artists like Run- D.M.C.. Framing raw energy, Friedman is responsible for shooting some of the most famous rap and hardcore record covers of all time. Including bands such as Black Flag, Minor Threat, Beastie Boys and Public Enemy to mention only a few.

Take all that, add some quick-witted energy and an outspoken viewpoint and you may begin to understand exactly where he is coming from. The guy's got a big mouth and is crazy hard on the critique, no doubt. But he's seen more radical shit come and go (or stay around needlessly), than most of us care to deal with or would have died to see, and he's got the photos to prove it. Friedman is currently working on his third book The Idealist, a collection of photos unlike any of his previous body of work, that he's taken since he was in junior high school. Most recently, a retrospective exhibit of his work from his first two books entitled Fuck You All, is traveling around the world where appreciation and respect are being given in gallery and museum settings to the images that he has created. His photos uniquely represent a culture of youth and pure aggression which is often misunderstood and he is regarded as one of the most important photographers of his generation because of it.

One night I cruised over to Glen's apartment near Union Square (where all the NYC girlies skate) to pay a visit and grab some Sweet & Sour Delight at one of his favorite vegan spots Zen Palate. As we sat at the counter munching on spring rolls, Glen explained how when he was first coming up in skating, during the mid-'70's, all his hang out crew were indisputably the most incredible skaters on the face of the earth (the legendary Z-Boys). Unlike Glen, most of them surfed when they weren't scouting out drained pools or skating the schoolyard banks. Crediting skating as one of the biggest influences of his life, Glen is one of the 1st generation of skaters that skated for its' own sake, not just because the waves were flat. After eating, we walked back to his apartment where the walls are covered with copies of photos he's laying out for his new book, The Idealist. The photos, vast in content and rich and color, are different from any others he's published. Surreal landscape photos and shots of friends as well as photos Glen took when he was still in school, leave me to believe his new book is somewhat autobiographical. When I questioned Glen about his reasons for taking up photography he explained that beside its' aesthetic/artistic aspects, he has felt obligated to share his experiences and document what was going on around him for those who didn't have the opportunity to be where he was and to see and hear what he did.

Friedman was a skater for years before he snapped a photo. Then he realized no one was really capturing the culture and sport that was his inspiration, and he started developing his eye for composition and character . Growing up he went to punk shows and later hip-hop parties and eventually started to bring his camera along. After checking out a performance by The Make-Up at Brownies in NYC with Glen and surveying his music collection it is obvious that his subjects motivate him in a personal way. He still claims his friends in the band Fugazi as "a major inspiration and one of the greatest examples anyone can look to, for motivation to do the right thing if they are not so inclined in their own heart." Although you can find Glen at any Fugazi show in NYC, you won't always spot him carrying a camera around. He explains how he only shoots when he feels there is a need to do so, "not just because everything needs to be documented. I really have this need to be motivated by subjects, whether it be circumstance or beauty. I still skate and listen to hardcore, punk and hip-hop and all those things still inspire me." Although the subjects may remain the same, to Glen the creativity and quality he believes in is of a whole other caliber nowadays.

Integrity is a big issue for him and it really dictates how Glen lives his life. His choice of diet alone is an example of how disciplined he is. Straight-edge and vegan, he feels vehemently about his reasons for being so. His ideals are so hard-core that it has given him the reputation of being very difficult to work with. Friedman claims that it's often because he pays special attention to details that most others often overlook. He is intense and opinionated, and if you challenge his intellect on issues like politics and environmental issues you may end up short-witted.

Glen blames the media's' over indulgence in itself for the lack of artistry and originality in the creative world today. The commercial motivation of most people is appalling to him, "All the outlets that sell advertising to those major corporations who are trying to harness the Generation-X market are leading to the creation of media not for progressive or interesting information but actually only to sell product. There are so many of these outlets that the majority of them don't have any real interests other than to sell ad space and find editorial to put between the ads, and this leads to bullshit for the sake of that fucking dollar. And sometimes even worse there may in fact be something that deserves some kind of recognition but as soon as these outlets get their hands on it, they exploit and over expose it, something that has yet had a chance to develop on its own and take a natural course of development, that's why you see so much disposable crap around now." Glen brings up technological advancement and described how although everyone has a video camera or desktop publishing capabilities, there is hardly enough developed talent around that deserves any attention. "So people become rock stars for a week," Glen explains,"thanks to these corporations that will spit them out and forget about them before you learn how to spell their name - there's just too much coverage of mediocre shit, too many cameras, too many magazines and all that wasted paper," the environmentalist in him adds. The fact that so many artists are driven by the desire of their 15 minutes of fame and cash money rather than by their instinctive creativity genuinely frustrates Glen, but he continues to keep his head up toward brighter skies which are his only limits.

Glen describes his position on most issues as, "so positive it appears negative. Those who don't have many positive ideals of thier own might mis-interpret me on occasion and that's alright, I'm just trying to make this world a better place for everyone in whatever little ways an individual like myself can - through influence and example, through my own life and the portrayal of others when I'm so inclined."

Many of us have grown up with Glen's pictures somewhere in the background of our daily lives, influencing us with hardcore attitude and images that speak volumes to this day. Because of his intimate relationship with the cultures he catches on film, Glen is able to capture a density in his work: thick, with heart and soul and a sense of coolness of someone who is comfortable with his surroundings.

Fuck You Too
The Extras and More Scrap Book
(Consafos Press)

Glen E. Friedman refers to his second photographic collection, "Fuck You Too", as a mere "scrapbook", almost apologetically. In doing this he undermines the impact a book of scraps can make on a person. Especially when that book is packed full of photographs of societal outcasts; ones we grew up with, images that influenced our clothing styles, musical preferences and general distaste for anything "mainstream" like this one does.

One might assume that "Fuck You Too" is a sloppy seconds continuation of "Fuck You Heroes". but in the books preface, Friedman emphatically conveys that the two are separate and distinct entities: "(Fuck you Too)" is certainly not meant to be the social document that is 'Fuck You Heroes'. This book is for recreation only but, in some ways this one is much more (it literally has 168 pages with almost 350 photos).

Friedman proves that being involved during the evolution of such youth culture powers as skateboarding, hardcore and rap music results in one hell of a personal photographic archive. His diverse subjects range from now widely recognizable faces of Run-DMC to the more obscure bug-eyed glares of the Adolescents; from the ever geared out LL Cool J to the skull-and-crossbones adorned Glenn Danzig and the Misfits. All faces that Friedman believes give society the Metaphorical middle finger.

- Fat Nick and Barb Rininger

(6 pages w/color and B&W photos from both books + some previously unpublished shots, and a "side-bar" review of FYT on the last page)