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Picture This: Blondie’s Chris Stein helps capture the birth of punk

PUBLISHED: 13:01 27 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:39 01 July 2017

Debbie Harry with Iggy Pop  pictured backstage. This picture forms part of the birth of punk exhibition at the Waterfront Gallery at the University of Suffolk. Picture: CHRIS STEIN

Debbie Harry with Iggy Pop pictured backstage. This picture forms part of the birth of punk exhibition at the Waterfront Gallery at the University of Suffolk. Picture: CHRIS STEIN

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A new photographic exhibition has opened capturing the power of the early punk era. Arts editor Andrew Clarke spoke to university lecturer Eddie Duggan about the show and how Blondie founder Chris Stein supplied images from behind the scenes of the punk revolution

Sid Vicous wielding a hammer backstage at his first gig with The Sex Pistols in 1976. This image is part of the birth of punk exhibition at the Waterfront Gallery at the University of Suffolk. Picture: EDDIE DUGGANSid Vicous wielding a hammer backstage at his first gig with The Sex Pistols in 1976. This image is part of the birth of punk exhibition at the Waterfront Gallery at the University of Suffolk. Picture: EDDIE DUGGAN

The excitement, the hedonism and the sheer bravado of the late 1970s punk era is being recaptured in a new photography exhibition.

The show, entitled A la recherché du punk perdu, brings together pictures and memorabilia from Blondie songwriter and guitarist Chris Stein, punk photographer and university lecturer Eddie Duggan and archivist and academic Professor Teal Triggs.

The photography captures both the art and the chaos of the era while the rough and ready memorabilia stands in stark contrast to the slick merchandising enjoyed by today’s bands.

Chris Stein’s large-scale pictures of Blondie and the band’s vocalist Debbie Harry capture a clear moment in time when they were first establishing a name for themselves on New York’s club scene.

Eddie Duggan with blown up contact prints of the first Sex Pistols gig which is part of the birth of punk exhibition at the University opf Suffolk. Picture: ANDREW CLARKEEddie Duggan with blown up contact prints of the first Sex Pistols gig which is part of the birth of punk exhibition at the University opf Suffolk. Picture: ANDREW CLARKE

By the time the band made it big in Britain in 1977, they were a sharply dressed rock band. In Chris’ early to mid-70s pictures, it reveals a wilder, hairier, grungy, more punk sensibility.

Stein was a founder member of the band and Debbie Harry’s long-term partner and he was in exactly the right place to capture the birth of Blondie and document their connections with the rest of New York’s music scene.

In his pictures we see Debbie hanging out with David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Suzi Quatro and Joan Jett. Stein has also decided to include early promo pics of the band and shots of drummer Clem Burke on the streets of London in that Jubilee year of 1977.

Suffolk university lecturer Eddie Duggan caught images of Debbie Harry and Blondie on that breakthrough tour and has supplied blown up contact prints of images taken from those initial London gigs along with the first Sex Pistols gig to feature Sid Vicious on bass.

Debbie Harry with David Bowie pictured by Debbie's partner Chris Stein. This picture forms part of the birth of punk exhibition at the Waterfront Gallery at the University of Suffolk. Picture: CHRIS STEINDebbie Harry with David Bowie pictured by Debbie's partner Chris Stein. This picture forms part of the birth of punk exhibition at the Waterfront Gallery at the University of Suffolk. Picture: CHRIS STEIN

He said: “I was at a Cherry Vanilla gig at a small venue next to West Kensington tube station and word went round that the Pistols were playing later that night across town. At the end of the gig the place emptied, everyone piled onto the tube and went to The Angel and filled the Screen on the Green for the Pistols. This was late summer ‘76 and was the first public gig with Sid Vicious.

“I was pleased I got to go backstage and caught those shots of Sid with the hammer which we are using as one of the publicity images for the exhibition.”

He said that it was the thrill of being part of the anarchic London music scene that inspired him to take his photography more seriously.

“Everyone says that when people saw the Sex Pistols in the early days they went away and formed bands. That seemed too much like hard work for me, so I took pictures. At first I didn’t do much with them, I went to the gig, printed a few and filed them away. Then I started taking them to the music press. I’d go to a gig, then the following day I would take the pictures into NME and say do you want any pictures from last night’s gig?

Debbie Harry with fellow rock icons Suzi Quatro and Joan Jett in New York in the mid-70s. This picture forms part of the birth of punk exhibition at the Waterfront Gallery at the University of Suffolk. Picture: CHRIS STEINDebbie Harry with fellow rock icons Suzi Quatro and Joan Jett in New York in the mid-70s. This picture forms part of the birth of punk exhibition at the Waterfront Gallery at the University of Suffolk. Picture: CHRIS STEIN

“In those days there were no turnstiles, no security to speak of, you stuck a camera under your coat, a lens in each pocket and spare rolls of film in your sock and you were in and away.”

Chris Stein’s contribution to the exhibition came through his friendship with Eddie. “Originally we were planning to do a show in London which didn’t come about for various reasons and then we organised the show here – which I told Chris about – and he asked if his work could be included which was fantastic because we are getting the story from the band’s point of view as well as the fans.

“I’m grateful to Chris and Teal for their contributions which have allowed us to create a unique, multi-perspectival view of a moment we can now see as a tectonic cultural shift in music, taste, fashion and popular culture.”

Some of the images on display at the University of Suffolk’s Waterfront Gallery are being shown in public for the first time. The exhibition will be on display until May 15.

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