WARP magazine

Glen E. Friedman - Photos from the Edge


Photographer Glen E. Friedman thinks kids these days aren't doing such a great job of stirring things up, so he's decided to point out some role models.
Friedman watched the sun come up on skateboarding, hardcore punk, and rap music, and he's shaped our memories with dozens of familiar magazine, album, and publicity shots. His hefty, self-produced Fuck You Heroes, is dominated by the words and faces of his friends and idols Tony Alva, Ice-T, Henry Rollins, the Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Ian MacKaye, and Stacy Peralta. Many of these pictures are recognized as the subjects' definitive portraits, and it's a revelation to find they were all created by one man.

Friedman snagged his regular teenage gig shooting for Skateboarder in the late 70's, with action shots of bushy-headed skate pioneers like Alva and Peralta jamming on backyard swimming pool walls. He expressed his subsequent infatuation with frenzied, idealistic punk rock in a self-published 1982 photozine, My rules, filled with sweaty live pics of psychopathic Black Flag, the radical Dead Kennedys, and the visionary Bad Brains. Friedman's busy years working with rap magnate Russell Simmons were crammed with defiant early shots of Ice-T, KRS-One, LL Cool J, and Run-DMC.

Through equal parts luck and shrewdness Friedman managed to be at the right place at the right time. His cover portraits for the first Suicidal Tendencies album and first two Public Enemy records have become the primary gangbanger bandanna and hard-steel signifiers of toughness today. Scanning the faces of Friedman's heroes, six-tenths of rebellion is communicated in the gesture. On the hardcore rockers, intensity looks goofy, but heartfelt. The rappers appear more calculated, but most of their photos are posed. For the skaters, wildness just looks like adrenaline addiction. Stills in Fuck You Heroes of D.C.'s Junkyard Band and a Rahway State Prison lifer show Friedman's documentary skills translate equally well to deeper subjects.

Friedman is in awe of the loudest loud young mouths of the last fifteen years. He respects their impact immensely, and he's committed to passing the inspiration around. When Chuck D. and Favor Flav were wee rap challengers defending Public Enemy's first album on late-nite MTV, they sported a pair of Minor Threat T-shirts Friedman had given them, impressed by the band's militancy and drugless lifestyle. The photographer also claims to have handed piles of hardcore records over to Ice-T years before Body Count, and pointed PE's Terminator X to the Suicidal Tendencies scratches that turned up on Yo! Bum Rush The Show.

At New York's up-and-comer Thicket Gallery, original prints from Fuck You Heroes recently sold for thousands of dollars, reflecting Friedman's belief in the value of his work. Weighing the power of his images against creative freedom, Friedman has recently vowed not to photograph guns for rap album covers. He explains that his pictures are sacred to him, and that he only has color Xeroxes of them hanging on his own apartment walls. At home in Manhattan, the 31-year-old workaholic remains a straight-edge vegan.

Ian Christe

(4 full pages with many different color and B&W photos)