Armed with just a trio of cheap-ass cameras (a Polaroid, a Brownie, a 110 Instamatic), Paul Zone was fully equipped to chronicle his fellow revelers in sleazy late-seventies NYC. Zone’s main gig was lead singer of The Fast, a band well covered in his new book Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground, though not quite as legendary as a lot of the people he snapped. Along with the usual scene suspects (The Ramones, New York Dolls, Blondie, Suicide, Patti Smith, a very long-haired Lenny Kaye, Suicide, Tom Verlaine, etc.) there are some of the hugest rock stars of the day. Zone’s lo-fi approach to photography makes Ray Davies, Iggy, KISS, Alice Cooper, and Marc Bolan seem as gutter-bound as Wayne County. Not surprisingly, Debbie Harry’s natural luminosity makes all her pictures seem much more professional than the rest.
With Chris Stein, Harry also provided a short foreword for Playground, but the big text comes from Zone, himself, who tells his own story with all-appropriate rawness intact. There’s child abuse, drugs, serious health scares, and death, as well as love, generosity, and sex Tupperware parties. It gives a valuable glimpse of the guy behind the camera, though his pictures have so much personality that you can almost get his biographical gist without reading it. And most impressive of all, I’ve never seen a single one of these shots before.
Get Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground on Amazon.com here: