Museum and Gallery Guide

Photographer Sheila Rock celebrates the punk spirit

By Zaki JufriEvents - 06 October 2014 4:46 PM | Updated 08 October 2014

Photographer Sheila Rock celebrates the punk spirit

A curious mind and a love for photography led a young Sheila Rock to accidentally chronicle the birth of the punk movement in London back in 1976.

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Jordan, the shop assistant in SEX (left), Debbie Harry (right)

“I had no expertise in photography then but I had an interest and passion in it. So I just photographed what I was seeing,” Rock told inSing. 

Having just arrived in London from the US, Rock was invited to see the Patti Smith Group's now-legendary performance at the Roundhouse in May 1976 by her friend, Lenny Kaye, Smith's guitarist. Kaye also told her about a punk group called the Clash, who were playing a few months later at the Institute of Contemporay Art. Fascinated, she tagged along and took her camera.

"It was a time when I was really young and I didn’t know what I was doing, but I intuitively knew that it was important," Rock said.

"I was compelled to document it because it was visually exciting, dramatic and outlandish."

Her curiosity led her to document the zeitgeist of the London punk movement in its infancy, with its intimate portraits of the movers, influencers and shakers of the scene, from Viviene Westwood and John Lydon to punk style icon Jordan.  

She recalled: “Then I was introduced to Don Letts at Acme, a shop where all the young people then were hanging out. It was an amazing sight – the fashion, the musicians. I met Billy Idol, Chrissie Hynde and Siouxie Sioux later at SEX (Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren’s bondage/punk store). Everything just grew organically from there.”

Rock herself had barely looked at the photographs in nearly 30 years. If not for Fabrice Couillerot (her publisher's) intervention, the photographs might not have seen the light of day.

"I kept those photos in a box in my garden shed, but forgot about them because they were not technically perfect or related to a specific job. I didn't think they were important until Fabrice convinced me otherwise." 

Now, her vivid photographs have been turned into a limited edition book called ‘Punk+’.  And through 26 October, her works will be on display in Singapore at The Substation, as part of the Agnes B ‘Punk+ Photo Exhibition’ tour.

The showcase will feature 28 photos of The Clash, Sex Pistols, Chrissie Hynde, Billy Idol and more, all curated from her book.

“It was such an exciting time. It is hard to put in words the energy and how exciting that era was,” Rock said.


Zaki Jufri writes about the arts, entertainment, film and other stuff for inSing.com

agnès b. PUNK+ Photo Exhibition

agnès b. PUNK+ Photo Exhibition

Date Oct 02, 2014 - Oct 26, 2014

VenueThe Substation Gallery