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Rebel rebel: from Joe Strummer to Coventry ska girls, people who broke the mould – in pictures

Joe Strummer backstage, The Clash, Milan, 1981

Rebel rebel: from Joe Strummer to Coventry ska girls, people who broke the mould – in pictures

The Guardian

May 26, 2022


With her images of Run-DMC or female gang members, British photographer Janette Beckman is interested in bringing out her subjects’ complex inner lives

Rebels is an exhibition of works by British photographer Janette Beckman. Covering four decades of photography it serves as a stunning snapshot of Beckman’s significance in the world of art, photojournalism, music, fashion and popular culture. Rebels runs until 18 June at Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles. A hardcover monograph is available for purchase at the gallery for $75. All Photographs: Janette Beckman, courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery

Janette Beckman began her career at the dawn of punk rock in London, working for publications such as The Face and Melody Maker. She shot artists from the Clash to Boy George, as well as documenting the rebellious youth culture that surrounded them

Of this image, Janette Beckman said: ‘This was when Kings Road was the place. I’d go there on Saturdays and just walk up and down with my camera. I saw these kids outside Boy, and just loved the whole aesthetic: the window of stuff, them with their stuff’

‘It’s easy to forget how contentious and rebellious punks were. There were as many cops at that march as punks!’

Relocating to New York in 1983, Beckman was drawn to the burgeoning hip-hop scene, where she photographed trailblazers of the movement such as Salt-N-Pepa, Run-DMC, Grandmaster Flash, Slick Rick and LL Cool J

Beckman has spent decades creating iconic images of larger-than-life rebels in music

With her fondness for rebellious eccentricity, Beckman has a keen ability to capture her subjects’ complex inner lives. As she puts it: ‘I’m not Annie Leibovitz with 20 assistants; it’s just me and my camera. These girls just became themselves’

The unrehearsed and raw nature of each image is not unlike the spontaneous wildness of 1970s and 80s subcultures

Her subjects seem ennobled by the complexity she strives to capture – resulting in images that translate subcultural life for intrigued outsiders.

While Beckman’s photographs span several years and continents, the thread that connects each image is that those who found themselves in front of Janette’s lens are, in one way or another, rule-breaking rebels

Beckman’s dedication to the rebellious still rings true today. Whether it’s photographing the BLM protests in 2020 or celebrating the subversive