Edward Colver

Inside Out With Punk Photographer Edward Colver

When I took my first corporate office job, I had two of Colver's pictures pinned to the bleak gray wall of my cubicle. Every day I worked for The Man, I would look at the three pairs of black leather boots wrapped in chains and bandannas and at Circle Jerks bassist Roger Rogerson leaping into the air, mid-song.

Edward Colver: I had gone to a couple of shows because of news reports that I saw about the "music scene" going on at Madame Wong's [a nightclub that booked punk rock and New Wave bands, eventually programming only the skinny-tie crowd]. Around the same time, the Hong Kong Café opened and they were booking punk shows. I immediately saw a distinction between what was new wave and punk rock, and I abandoned Madame Wong's forever. As far as shooting live shows, I started back in the middle (or end) of 1978 and, pretty soon after, I had dinner at a friend's house. They heard I was taking pictures and asked me to bring some and come over for dinner and hang out. 

Their relatives happened to work for [music magazine] BAM, saw my pictures of [performance artist and punk singer] Johanna Went and wanted to use them in an article they were working on.                            
I got my first photograph published three months after I started taking them.

On your website, you mention avant-garde musicians (Edgar Varese, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Krzysztof Penderecki and John Cage) as the biggest influences on your life and your art, initially.
When I was 18, I started going to psychedelic music in the mid-60s and heard avant-garde classical stuff and started collecting antiques and my interests haven't changed. My whole life took a major turn when I heard that type of music, and it's the same way with the punk scene, even though it's a totally different scene. All those avant-garde classical composers were sort of the full-blown punks of their generation, doing outrageous stuff.
When you were shooting the punk scene, did you have an idea at the time that your photos would become as iconic as they have? That people would actually want them on a t-shirt?

I shot basically two files' worth full of black and white negatives in that five years I was out working. Had I known what would happen with the scene, I would have shot twice as much.
I'm basically self-taught. After I was supporting myself taking photographs, I took a beginning photography class at UCLA and learned quite a bit. Then I took an intermediate class and didn't learn anything. We brought our photographs to class one day and the teacher stopped the entire class when he saw my photographs and said, "No one in here could go out and take these photographs--these were taken by an insider. These people are familiar and comfortable with him." I thought that was pretty astute.


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