Interview with Glen E. Friedman | By Greg Prato
All images from “Keep Your Eyes Open: The Fugazi Photographs of Glen E. Friedman,” copyright 2019. Used with permission of Glen E. Friedman and Akashic Books (akashicbooks.com)
“While most photographers were taking photos of Fugazi, Glen was making photos with us,” Fugazi vocalist and guitarist Ian MacKaye is quoted as saying on the back of the expanded second edition of “Keep Your Eyes Open.”
The Glen in question is, of course, Glen E. Friedman, the New York photographer who has offered countless classic images of the skateboarding, punk, and hip hop scenes. In 2007, this photo book focusing entirely on his work with DIY post-hardcore trailblazers Fugazi hit the bookstore shelves. It subsequently went out of print, but on July 1, it was reissued by Akashic Books, now including more photos and a new interview between Friedman and MacKaye.
Here, Friedman talks a bit more about “Keep Your Eyes Open,” Fugazi, and photography.
How did the idea come about to do an expanded second edition of “Keep Your Eyes Open”?
Well, the “Keep Your Eyes Open” book was out of print for a while, and I always wanted to get it back out for the public at some point, but the constraints of independent book publishing kept me from reprinting. Eventually, I went to our friend [Girls Against Boys bassist] Johnny Temple at Akashic Books, who we initially helped with some rudimentary information on book publishing when he was beginning. He has had some good success in the business and art of book publishing, so knowing he too was very inspired by Fugazi and the ethics of Dischord [Records] and myself, I approached him with the idea of his publishing group taking over the title from me and my crew. It took a few years, but at last, here it is! Johnny and Ian both thought it would be cool if we could make something a little different from the original to celebrate its republication, so we did!
In your estimation, were Fugazi the greatest live band you ever saw?
I am not sure I could say the greatest live band I ever saw, but I certainly could say the most consistently great live band I ever saw—and incredibly consistent at that, from their first show to their last, indeed. I loved seeing Fugazi every time I did. They were incredible, with no equal.
How consistent were Fugazi live?
Ah, there’s your answer above: incredibly. Always great for the audience, even if not so for the band themselves. Passionate every single performance.
What was the wildest Fugazi show you ever shot?
I cannot answer that fairly, because there were so many great ones, but those at Fort Reno [Park in Washington, D.C.], and perhaps several I did not bring my camera to, were more wild than ones I did bring my camera to. [The] Roseland [Ballroom] shows and three nights at Irving Plaza [in New York]—nothing to sleep on.
Which are some of your favorite images in “Keep Your Eyes Open,” and why?
I love the first color image at Maxwell’s [in Hoboken, New Jersey], when the flash did not go off and the light was barely enough to light Ian. To print it, you see each grain in the film, as the front of the Burning Flags [Press] website shows. I love a lot of them, really—so many for different reasons. The title page image is an amazing portrait; the full stage and audience photo at the last Fort Reno show where you see people way in the distance is not intense, but it is incredible! C’mon, man, there’s great images all over this book! [Laughs]
How would you compare seeing a Fugazi show in their prime to a Bad Brains show in their prime?
Well, they are apples and oranges: one frontman versus two, one band roller-coasters between lightning-speed punk rock and reggae breaks, the other with something I can’t describe but, again, consistent come to mind. They were both phenomenal. Bad Brains played shorter sets, and theirs were bursts of energy and heaviness, while Fugazi was just so all over the musical spectrum in a different way and with a passion throughout that not even the Bad Brains could match after their first few years. Again, Fugazi did it always and forever.
On July 1, an expanded edition of “DogTown: The Legend of the Z-Boys” was also released by Akashic. What can people expect from that book?
That book, of the three books rereleased or new this year, [including “Together Forever: The Run-DMC and Beastie Boys Photographs,” out Oct. 1 via Rizzoli New York], is one of the most exciting for me, because we added so much to that book and redesigned and updated the design in so many ways. Lots of never-before-seen action photos, expanded caption information, lots of new insets on previous old pages to give my section even more depth. Besides adding more actual pages, it’s an approximately 20 percent larger book by volume too, nine inches by nine inches now!
What made you decide to go with Akashic for these two books?
Well, I like what they do there—independent with a professional attitude, no slackers, real lovers of good books—and I really wanted these two books to remain in print forever, and I just could not work out how to continue to do that on my own with my ConSafos [Press] crew any longer. ConSafos still distribute my books “The Idealist: [In My Eyes – 25 Years” from 1998] and “Recognize” [from 2005], which I encourage people to get if they are into my art. Depending on how the next 18 months goes with these releases, there is likely going to be a new release in the future with the crew at Akashic.
Any other future projects planned, books or otherwise?
Well, I consider it rude for people to ask that unless they have already read every word and examined every photograph in all my previously published works.
That said, perhaps a few who read this may have—have you?
So, I will say the totally new book coming this year is “Together Forever,” the best of all my Run-DMC and Beastie Boys photographs in one book, mostly unpublished stuff, and a 5,000-word introduction from me describing my relationship and the photos from beginning to present day. [It includes a] foreword from Chris Rock and some words from all the surviving members pictured in the book, and its cover is purposely made the same size as “Keep Your Eyes Open,” so they can fit on a shelf next to each other perfectly.
What advice would you give to photographers interested in shooting live rock shows?
Get close, get intense, make images only you can! Fuck long lenses! If you don’t love the band, get the fuck outta the way and let people who do shoot them. Only do it when you need to, because your heart tells you you need to, because you are going to share something that no one else can the way you do.