Jim Jocoy’s We’re Desperate, The Cramps and cuckoos in the nest
There’s a certain kind of nightlife photography book / tradition that I seem to have been repeatedly drawn to over the years (and probably also amassed more than one or two of them on my bookshelves).
They take the form of a collection of quite formal photographic portraits of subcultural / nightlife inhabitants – often using the blank walls, corners and backrooms of those estabilishments as fleeting studios and backdrops.
Along which lines, I would probably look towards Derek Ridgers When We Were Young that focused on London’s fashionable club and subcultural groupings from the late 1970s to 1987 (published by photoworks in 2004), the 1980s post-punk gathering Paradiso Stills by Max Natkiel (originally published by Fragment in 1986, reprinted by Voetnoot in 2013), Geordon Nicol’s multi-snapshot New York club recording Misshapes (2007, MTV Press) and more recently Oliver Sieber’s 7-year international photographic odyssey Imaginary Club (BöhmKobayashi / GwinZegal, 2013).
One particular book that I have returned to the most would be Jim Jocoy’s We’re Desparate, a capturing of late 1970s Southern California/L.A. punk/no-wave/post-punk nightlife dwellers (clubkid forerunners?) in a manner similar to the aforementioned portrait like manner.
And of all the photographs in that book, the ones that come back to me are probably the least typical – those of b-movie creature from the black leather lagoon mutant rock’n’roll world creators Lux Interior and Poison Ivy of The Cramps.
Just as in wider life, culture and music, they seem like cuckoos in the nest, separate to those that surround them.
That is heightened by their particular backdrop being, well, more literally cramped, more decorated and colourful than many of the more blank settings of other photographs in the book but it’s not just that. The photographs seem to capture an ingrained sense of outside-rness.