Exclusive: Roberta Bayley
An album of classic shots, curated for PROVOKR by the artist
Roberta Bayley is one of the principal visual chroniclers of the punk rock movement, which lasted from the mid-’70s up until the early ’80s. She was born in Pasadena, California; grew up in the Bay Area; attended San Francisco State for three years before dropping out in 1971; lived briefly in London; and eventually settled in New York City. While working the door at the legendary downtown club, CBGB, she befriended many iconic punk bands and musicians, including Iggy Pop, Blondie, Richard Hell, Elvis Costello, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones (that’s her picture on the cover of their debut album), Nick Lowe, the Damned, the Clash, and the New York Dolls, and her job soon became chief photographer for Punk Magazine.
Before the invasion of fast fashion, before the 52-season year infested consumer norms, fashion statements were more fixed than fluid. Sure, designers still issued their trend decrees each season in the 1970s and ‘80s, but going against those trends was more radical than it is today, in the era of “anything goes.” It was about bucking gender norms and breaking the noses of political asshats.
Bayley’s photography sheds some light on the role sexuality played in a movement that was far more intricate, passionate, and ferocious than photos could ever fully convey.
The ones who were there would tell you that you wouldn’t understand, that the movement really meant something. They would be correct.
Images of those days are priceless memories of a life passionately lived. Bayley still lives and works in New York City, and she chose this album of vintage images exclusively for PROVOKR.
This is the part where we apologize to the anarchists, to the Fugazi fans, to the punks who worship at the six-stringed altar of Siouxsie Sioux–none of this story is news to you, but then again, maybe that’s the point.