Glen E.Friedman – My Rules Retrospective: A Review

Art & Culture

We’re so saturated with instantaneous imagery (Instagram I love you but still) these days it’s hard to remember the true power of a picture to capture a moment and excite and inspire us. Thankfully, we still have the photographer Glen E. Friedman; a man with an innate knack for capturing both the most vital creative artists, and the truths that run through their work.

glen e friedman show

The search for authenticity is at the heart of Punk and Skate scenes – and is in many ways the creative engine which drives DIY culture. This authenticity is channelled through Friedman's lens, drawing us into the heart of the moment in every image. Of course Friedman himself puts it better: “It’s all about the attitude”

“For things to be truly great you have to take a lot of time mastering what you’re doing. Alan Gelfland didn’t learn the Ollie by accident, Ian Mackaye didn’t make great music by accident, neither did Bad Brains or Black Flag, those fuckers worked their asses off.”

Glen himself is a sharp, energetic presence, and by the nature of his interests, also an uncompromising one. The work is stronger for this; his integrity and dedication to taking pictures with meaning are what makes his images so arresting. He has always been a passionate evangalist for punk – one thing I loved learning from the show was that it was Glen who introduced Public Enemy to Minor Threat  – hence the shots of PE wearing Minor Threat T–Shirts.

At the show, I heard someone say ”dude was so lucky he was just friends with all these really cool people” which jarred a little. in reality, Friedman shot his first picture at 10 and had his first images published in Skateboarder at age 14. Whilst that kind of eye and dedication is rare, his skill at broadcasting his interests in a relatable and engaging way is equally important. Friedmann puts it best: “Our generation really made shit happen. To do things outside of the mainstream was really very difficult and we just did it because there was no other choice.”

For anyone with more of an insider interest in the culture in Glen’s work, it’s almost a homecoming to see all the landmarks we know and love. From Run DMC sat with the Beastie Boys, to the disused swimming pools of Dogtown, to the steps of Dischord House – which will strike a chord with any Fugazi, Bluetip or Minor Threat fan – it’s all there. I won’t deny a certain nostalgia for the images I pored over as a teen on record covers, and in the NME, but to say the sole appeal of his imagery comes from this would be to do it a serious injustice. For me, his ability to capture the sense of truth and excitement at people working hard to acheieve great things makes his imagery so special. Not to mention alluring spirit of rebellion that throbs in his photography- as he says “Rebellion will always be relevant until we’re living in a perfect world. Someone’s always got to be fighting back and really that’s what this is all about.”

This review may seem to be coming too late as the show has closed. I’d argue it’s perfectly timed; whilst it’s great to see his work in a glossy gallery, spend some time locating his shots in their original homes, on record sleeves, in magazine interviews and on the covers of skate videos, and you may just unravel a richer history than one show can convey. Check a selection of the imagery below:

run dmcfugaziNoam ChomskyBad Brains

My Rules is out now, available from here

Words: Gemma Lacey