A rebellion of youth, punks in 1977

From PUNKS by Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon © Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon courtesy GOST Books

The work of two photographers whose pictures depict the early days of punk in London, many of which have not been seen for 30 years, is being shown at the photographic fair Paris Photo.

Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon both arrived in London in 1976 and met that year while studying for a film and photographic arts degree at the Polytechnic of Central London, an establishment which at that time was at the forefront of the development of photographic theory.

Together they embarked on a joint photographic project to document the emerging London punk scene, capturing members of the new movement at work and school, as well as those who would only emerge in their punk guise at night.

From PUNKS by Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon © Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon courtesy GOST Books

Knorr and Richon wanted to move away from the established way of working at that time, the grainy black and white photograph taken by an "invisible" photographer, capturing what was presented as the truth with their camera. It was of course not that all, but just one truth amongst many possible views of an event.

Start Quote

No youth cultural movement since the punks of the late 1970s has had the slightest influence on mainstream culture, and the so-called hipsters of today owe their very name to the avant-gardists of their grandparents' generation”

End Quote Will Self

Instead they used flash lighting, often off camera, to ensure higher quality pictures and to emphasise the relationship between photographers and subject.

At the time they wrote: "We chose a direct confrontation with our subject. This is why our pictures are posed, affirming our presence instead of eluding it. We attempted to achieve such a formal approach in order to emphasise punk symbolism and to make it more readable."

The decision to shoot in black and white ensures the pictures have rich dark black tones in the clothing, contrasted with pale faces that stare into the lens they do convey something of what it meant to be a punk.

Writing in the introduction to their book, Punks, Knorr and Richon note that the protest of the movement was, "not only verbal but also visual and gestural".

"This was a rebellion of youth against what is youthful, a refusal of cosmetic beauty... Marx, Mao and swastikas cancelled each other out, difference became indifference."

The photographs were taken in 1977, the backdrop to the pictures were two London clubs, the Roxy in Covent Garden and Global Village in Charing Cross.

Karen Knorr is currently the professor of photography at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, Surrey, and Olivier Richon professor of photography at the Royal College of Art.

Here's a selection from Punks by Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon published by GOST Books.

From PUNKS by Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon © Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon courtesy GOST Books
From PUNKS by Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon © Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon courtesy GOST Books
From PUNKS by Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon © Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon courtesy GOST Books
From PUNKS by Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon © Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon courtesy GOST Books
From PUNKS by Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon © Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon courtesy GOST Books
From PUNKS by Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon © Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon courtesy GOST Books
From PUNKS by Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon © Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon courtesy GOST Books

All photographs © Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon courtesy GOST Books

Phil Coomes Article written by Phil Coomes Phil Coomes Picture editor

Picture power: Doused with milk

Adrees Latif explains how he captured the moment a man was treated for the effects of pepper spray.

Read full article

More on This Story

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

Programmes

  • (File photo) A man dressed as Father Christmas with a sleigh and a reindeer Click Watch

    A website which tracks Father Christmas, plus other sites and apps to keep you entertained

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.