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Recently discovered photos of the LA Punk Scene from 1977-80 to be released in a new punk photo art book

© Melanie Nissen - Jane Wiedlin & Belinda Carlisle - Go-Go’s Punktuation

HARD + FAST, a book  by SLASH fanzine photographer Melanie Nissen is an incredible record of the who’s-who of early L.A. Punk.

There were quite a few photographers on L.A.’s early punk scene, but Melanie Nissen’s pictures have always stood apart. The legendary photographer shot for illustrious punk rock fanzine Slash from 1977-1980 and will release the first official collection of her work with HARD + FAST, a hardbound art book published by Blank Industries due out February 1, 2022.

In its early years, the L.A. punk scene was egalitarian, and the mix of people in her pictures is astonishing. Everyone was welcome: senior citizens, people of every race, children, swells in fancy clothes, and people in rags.

Punktuation mag Darby Crash (GERMS) & Exene Cervenka (X), Slash Magazine office party 1980. Photo by Melanie Nissen.
Darby Crash (GERMS) & Exene Cervenka (X), Slash Magazine office party 1980. Photo by Melanie Nissen.

“The early years were special,” Nissen reflects. “There was a real sense of camaraderie, and everyone was generous with their work.”

Immersed in the burgeoning scene herself, Nissen was friends with most of the people she photographed. This created a unique trust and comfort for her subjects to act naturally, injecting a biting sense of humour and extravagant body language into her photographs.

Lorna Doom, Pat Smear, Darby Crash, Don Bolles (GERMS) - out take from photo shoot for (GI) album 1979. Photo by Melanie Nissen. Punktuation
Lorna Doom, Pat Smear, Darby Crash, Don Bolles (GERMS) – outtake from the photoshoot for (G.I.) album 1979. Photo by Melanie Nissen.

There are also elements of formal portraiture evocative of work by Richard Avedon; like Avedon, Nissen sometimes prints her portraits framed with rough outlines of thick black ink that give them an unconventional edge.

Alice Bag, lead singer of the Bags, 1977. Photograph- Melanie Nissen Punktuation mag
Alice Bag, lead singer of the Bags, 1977. Photograph- Melanie Nissen

“I can see that these are also documentary pictures because they include elements of Los Angeles that have disappeared,” concludes Nissen. “The Tropicana Motel, bars and cocktail lounges, newsstands, nightclubs, the street life on Hollywood Boulevard, boutiques run by and for punks, burger stands, phone booths – these things are gone today, and they represent an aspect of L.A. history that shouldn’t be forgotten.

“The entire city had the familiarity of a neighbourhood then, and that’s no longer the case. L.A. is my home, though, and I’ll always remain loyal to it; I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.” 

Hard + Fast Published by Blank Industries out February 1 2022

Main Photo: © Melanie Nissen – Jane Wiedlin & Belinda Carlisle – Go-Go’s


 More Info on Hard + Fast


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