PMD photographed in Babylon, Long Island in 1989. © Janette Beckman

Janette Beckman’s “Rebel Cultures” Hits LA

If you’re into subversive culture then seasoned and illustrious photographer Janette Beckman‘s new exhibit “REBEL CULTURES: PUNKS, RAP AND GANGS” is for you.

The collection showcases Beckman’s work dating back to the early ’80s, during her time documenting the early days of both the punk and rap realms. While these faces of punk and rap lore may be familiar to most, it is the third leg of her show that really warrants some investigation. Janette explains how in the summer of 1982 she came across East L.A. gang El Hoyo Maravilla and how they fit seamlessly into the “rebel” story she set out to tell with her work,

“One day I met a writer who was working on a story about the East LA gang scene. I asked him to introduce me to the El Hoyo Maravilla gang. We drove out one hot summer day to a large dusty park in East LA to meet some members of the HM gang.

I had been documenting the London punk scene since 1976 and brought with me a box of 8”X10” prints of the British skinheads, punks, ska and rockabilly kids to show them. I explained that these were the ‘gangs’ in the UK and they agreed to let me take portraits of them to show people in London. I spent that summer photographing the gang with my Hasselblad camera, driving back and forth from Hollywood to East LA in my Rent-A-Wreck V8 Ford LTD.

The East LA area was poor, hot and arid, and there was the constant sound of LAPD helicopters buzzing overhead. The gang members introduced me to their families, showed me the barrio and tried to explain how it was living ‘la vida loca’.

I was the first British person they had ever met and we were curious about each other.”

The collection of photos is an interesting and candid look at youth culture decades ago, which allows us to have a better understanding today that no matter the region or locale the youth will remain rebellious. The exhibition also features a slew of iconic photographs showing the foundational years of the punk and hip hop scenes including shots of folks like Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer, Debbie Harry, Slick Rick, Keith Haring, and Run DMC.

The show is currently up and on view at HVW8 in Los Angeles until May 18.

You can catch some recent work from Beckman in Issue 54 of Mass Appeal, as she lends her eye to documenting NYC motorcycle culture in our “Stunts Blunts & Hip Hop” story.

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