Photo-punk: Images from the Birth of Punk and a guitar attacked with an axe by the Damned

By Culture24 Reporter | 04 August 2016

Images of the birth of the movement in the UK are as fresh as ever, say the photographers who first portrayed punk

A black and white photo of people involved in the 1960s and 1970s punk movement
Punk fans in 1977© Ian Dickson
As well as 2016 being its 40th birthday, part of the continuing pervasiveness of punk is down to its continuing relevance, which has been less diminished by the decades than more transient cultures.

A black and white photo of people involved in the 1960s and 1970s punk movement
The Clash (1977)© Ian Dickson
Those early years are the subject of a new exhibition by photographers Kevin Cummins and Ian Dickson, who saw the first waves of the “dole queue rock” and shadowed the likes of the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Damned and The Clash.

A black and white photo of people involved in the 1960s and 1970s punk movement
© Kevin Cummins
Dickson, who joined the NME soon into his career, in 1973, sees punk as the last great resonant youth movement.

A black and white photo of people involved in the 1960s and 1970s punk movement
The Sex Pistols (1976)© Ian Dickson
“That is why there is still so much interest in events that happened 40 years ago,” he says.

A black and white photo of people involved in the 1960s and 1970s punk movement
Punks at Eric's, Liverpool (September 1977)© Kevin Cummins
“The time since then has really flown but the images themselves still seem so fresh. I’m looking forward to sharing them with both those who were there and later generations.”

A black and white photo of people involved in the 1960s and 1970s punk movement
The Damned (1977)© Ian Dickson
A former student in Salford, Cummins is inextricably linked to the likes of Joy Division, who he pictures in Hulme in the exhibition.

A black and white photo of people involved in the 1960s and 1970s punk movement
A punk fan in 1977© Screenbound film
Alongside Iggy Pop, the Ramones, Buzzcocks and John Cooper Clarke, there’s also a previously unseen cover image by Dickson for the magazine Sounds, featuring Shane MacGowan before his eminence leading The Pogues.

A black and white photo of people involved in the 1960s and 1970s punk movement
Gene October, of Chelsea, in London (1977)© Screenbound Films
A film, Punk in London, made in 1977 by German student Wolfgang Büld, plays adjacent to a stage outfit by Damned member Captain Sensible – a Brighton resident – in the museum’s Fashion gallery.

A black and white photo of people involved in the 1960s and 1970s punk movement
The Clash (1977)© Screenbound Films
“Amazingly, it has survived to tell the tale,” the Captain says of a heavily-used Gibson guitar he’s given to the exhibition.

"This guitar has been thoroughly road-tested in typical Damned fashion - having been set on fire and attacked with an axe.”

  • Photo-punk: 40 Images from the Birth of Punk by Ian Dickson and Kevin Cummins is at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery from November 22 2016 - March 5 2017.

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Three places to find punk


In the late 19th century, a German-Jewish immigrant to the USA changed the world. With Emil Berliner’s invention of the gramophone and the record, the age of mass entertainment found its first global medium. Go on a musical journey of discovery through popular culture, featuring records that changed lives and the technology that made it happen, in the exhibition Jukebox, Jewkbox! A Century on Shellac and Vinyl. Until October 16 2016.

, Bradford
Rock Against Racism, until September 3 2016, is an exhibition of some of the legendary performers photographed by Syd Shelton. They include The Clash, Sham 69, Misty in Roots, Aswad, Pete Townshend of The Who, X Ray Spex, Elvis Costello, Tom Robinson and The Specials.

, London
Showcasing a range of fanzines, flyers, recordings and record sleeves from the library’s collections alongside rare material from the archives held at Liverpool John Moores University, including items from England's Dreaming: The Jon Savage Archive, Punk 1976-78 celebrates the enduring influence of punk as a radical musical, artistic and political movement. Until October 2 2016.
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