Try as they did to puke forth the impression they didn’t give two shits about the sentimentality of pop past, the punks started documenting themselves almost from the very start. 1977 saw the release of Wolfgang Büld’s Punk in London, likely the first punk documentary. That same year photographer Christopher Makos published White Trash, a collection of stark, B&W images of such scene staples as Richard Hell, Tom Verlaine, John Waters, Divine, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, and the New York Dolls, as well as key influences Warhol, Jagger, and Bowie. A collaborator of Warhol’s, Makos wasn’t necessarily looking to eulogize punk. He’d just snapped some photos of his friends in LA and NYC over a week in 1976. It just happened his friends would all become punk icons.
As originally published, White Trash was not purely Makos’s baby. Art director Fred Meyer had his way with the images, cropping them in angular, punk style. Glitterati’s new edition of White Trash affixes Uncut to the title because Makos’s photos are finally allowed to breathe full frame without Meyer’s crops. Yet we still get a very cropped series of images. Makos favored close ups, not just of faces (and he really forces you to appreciate the lush beauty of Hell’s lips), but of other body parts. A pair of tits here. A crotch bulge there. Patti Smith and Sylvan Sylvan’s dancing feet. Debbie Harry’s thigh on the cover. The approach de-eroticizes the erotic, makes the normal odd. The photographer’s knack for catching people like Grace Jones, John Waters, and Divine at their most disarmingly casual normalizes the odd. That’s pretty punk.
Get White Trash: Uncut on Amazon.com here: