Review: ‘A Chunk of Punk’ @ Barbican Music Library
Punk was born in an era of disquiet where Thatcherism left much of the youth feeling there was no future for them in Britain. ‘A Chunk of Punk’ captures the outspoken revolution that was happening in music in response to this malaise. The exhibition at the Barbican Music Library has hit a high note and been extended until May due to popular demand.
Rock archive’s Jill Furmanovsky is well known for her live music photography. In this exhibition of mostly unseen photographs she captures the creative energy that was cumulating in the 1970s. You witness musicians not only belting out their craft but giving the establishment a metaphorical middle finger with their explosive and rebellious music.
This is a nostalgic walk through time. Furmanovsky captures the high-intensity and hopeful feelings of the crowd in pictures such as those taken of The Jam at the Marquee Club in 1977. Furmanovsky says of the photograph: ‘It was a packed gig, heaving and hot. I stood on a chair at the back to shoot over the crowd’s heads.’ The Jam were promoting ‘In the City’ and Chris Parry of Polypro had signed them.
The subversive culture of punk translates impeccably into Furmanovsky’s photographs. The distorted black and white images show the contrasting harsh stage lights and the definitive ‘murkiness’ of gigs. And paired with it are extracts from monthly punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue, started by Mark Perry in 1976.
In an up-close shot of Debbie Harry in Glasgow, 1977, Furmanovsky captures the hard contrasting shadows of Harry’s face against her characteristic choppy flaxen hair. But it’s not the contrast of the image that’s striking; it’s the ambience it creates – the raw, caught-mid-chorus intensity of Harry’s expression.
Further along, a headphone set hangs on the wall. Here you can listen to iconic punk albums, immersing you in the 1970s scene. Songs such as ‘Know Your Rights’ by The Clash blare down the headphones – the recalcitrant vocals and impulsive drumbeats referenced in the images capturing the defiance of the times.
A photograph of The Clash at Rainbow Theatre in 1977 stands out – Joe Strummer on the floor, mouth gaping, guitar jetting towards the crowd and Paul Simonon in the background. At this famous Clash gig the audience destroyed 200 seats. With tangled wires splayed across the stage and slanted drum cymbals behind Strummer’s head, the photograph captures classic furniture of live photography. Staunch Clash fans aside, this shot is a testament to the beauty of gig photography, the 1970s and music.
With images of The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, The Ramones and more on display this is an insightful exhibition and a brilliant look into an era that defined the trajectory of music. Instead of giving in to the notion of ‘no future’ these artists, Jill Furmanovsky included, set the foundations for a bigger, more creative future.
Anyone with an interest in music, gig photography and the 1970s will love this exhibition and for anyone else, you’ll still love it!
We give it a loud 4/5 mangos.
‘A Chunk of Punk’ is showing at the Barbican Music Library until 25 May 2016
For more information on Jill Furmanovsky and Rockarchive visit:
For more information about the exhibition and Barbican Music Library visit:
London EC2Y 8DS
Telephone: 020 7638 0672
Opening Times: Mondays & Wednesdays 9.30am to 5.30pm;
Tuesdays & Thursdays 9.30am to 7.30pm;
Fridays 9.30am to 2pm; Saturdays 9.30am to 4pm
Nearest Tube: Barbican