Cockpower. There was a lot of it waving around the music industry when the girls of punk came along to kick things in the balls in the latter half of the 1970s. Siouxsie Sioux, Poly Styrene and Palmolive (not their real names) were among the women tearing their way through establishment barriers, and many performed at two important London clubs, the Roxy in Covent Garden, and Global Village in Charing Cross.
Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon explored the dark recesses of these anarchic venues during 1976 and ’77, collaborating on a photographic project they simply called Punks. Their focus was on the female clubbers, and unlike many of the documentary photographers of the time, the pair interacted with their subjects. They became part of the process, and used a semi-posed style that straddled portraiture and candid genres. Lighting was another key characteristic of the series. The images are lit solely by flash in what were extremely dark conditions, and that factor, coupled with the black and white film and the punk movement’s fondness for black and white make-up and clothes, made for stark, compelling photographs.
Richon is now professor of Photography at the RCA, while Knorr holds the same post at the University of Creative Arts, Surrey. They re-examined the Punks archive for a book, published by GOST, and an accompanying exhibition at London gallery Ibid which runs until 22 February.