“Punks, Poets and Provocateurs, NYC Bad Boys 1977-1982″: Marcia Resnick at Howl!

By on February 13, 2016

In Ron Mann’s short film from 1985, “Marcia Resnick’s Bad Boys,” cultural heroes like Iggy Pop, John Belushi, John Lydon, Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol and many others are on display, and if you live in New York City — or can get there this month — you’ll have the opportunity to see Punks, Poets and Provocateurs, NYC Bad Boys 1977-1982, an exhibition of these bad boys (and more) on display at the Howl Happening! space on the lower east side, through March 2nd.

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The Punks, Poets and Provocateurs, NYC Bad Boys 1977-1982 show features signed contemporary silver prints and large archival pigment prints, portraits of rockers Johnny Thunders, Joey Ramone, James Brown, Iggy Pop, David Byrne, Klaus Nomi, and Mick Jagger; beat poets Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Gregory Corso; and provocateurs and raconteurs Abbie Hoffman, Divine, Jackie Curtis, Quentin Crisp, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Christo, Anthony Bourdain, Fab 5 Freddy, Charles Ludlam, and the incomparable John Belushi, as well as bad girls Debbie Harry and Lydia Lunch, all photographed in New York during the later period of the ’70s and early 80s counterculture which was then dominated at the time by punk rock clubs, street culture and pop art.

Here’s a quick gallery of just a dozen or so of her photographs:

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Brooklyn-born photographer and college instructor Marcia Resnick’s work has been exhibited internationally, in galleries and museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, NYC, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC, George Eastman House, Rochester, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, New York Public Library, Jewish Museum, NYC, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Her photos — which have appeared in Rolling Stone and the Paris Review — have helped create icons. As writer Glenn O’Brien once put it, Marcia Resnick is “the insider among the outsiders of art.”

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Resnick in her studio with Mick Jagger in 1979; all photos featured here were taken by Marcia Resnick.

Photos exhibited in the Howl! exhibition are just some of those included in a newly-published book of the same name, Punks, Poets and Provocateurs, NYC Bad Boys 1977-1982, a collection of photographs Resnick took during a five-year period which embodied the idea of downtown NYC counterculture.

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Victor Bockris & Marcia Resnick, 1977

The book features writing by Victor Bockris and Ms. Renick herself, and additional texts by John Waters, Richard Hell, Gary Indiana, Max Blagg, Liz Derringer, Roy Trakin, and Kristian Hoffman. Here’s more from the publisher’s description:

“The people from the extraordinary New York milieu amongst whom I was living and working had no way of knowing that the years between 1977 and 1982 were enchanted, endangered, and unrepeatable,” Rockers Johnny Thunders, Joey Ramone, James Brown, Iggy Pop, David Byrne, Brian Eno, and Mick Jagger; beat poets William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso; and provocateurs and raconteurs John Waters, Steve Rubell, Gary Indiana, Abbie Hoffman, Norman Mailer, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the incomparable John Belushi are included here, along with text by Victor Bockris and contemporary writings that create a context for Resnick’s photography from this inimitable era.”

Marcia Resnick was born in borough of Brooklyn, New York, in 1950, and raised in the South Brooklyn neighborhood called Mill Basin.

She has been interested in art since childhood — her first exhibition took place at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum when she was five years old — and always knew she was going to be an artist. Always an exceptional student, she graduated from James Madison High School when she was just sixteen, around the same time that she began to seriously study photography.

She moved to Manhattan after graduation and began taking classes at NYU on a full academic scholarship, becoming politically aware as many college students were at the time, joining the Students for a Democratic Society and participating in anti-war marches. When she was 17, in 1968, she read William S. Burroughs’ novel Junkie, and that led her to want to experience first-hand what it was like to shoot heroin.

She transferred to Cooper Union, where she continued pursuing art and photography, documenting the Columbia University protests of 1968 (she even appeared on the front page of the New York Times, in a photo showing her body blocked by a police officer’s baton)

In 1972, Resnick moved to California, where she went to grad school at California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts), just outside of Los Angeles, studying conceptual art with John Baldessari and Allen Kaprow and completing her MFA in conceptual art the next year. Then — having learned to drive and getting her driver’s license for the first time — she drove across the country back to New York City, where she continued her lifelong pursuits.

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In 1975, she self-published three conceptual artist books: Landscape, See and Tahitian Eve. A year later, Resnick was involved in a bad car accident (she crashed her Chevy station wagon into a pole in the West Village), which left her hospitalized for two weeks, and it was during her convalescence that she began to explore identity through photography. She began working on a series of photographic reconstructions of memories of her early life and female adolescence (these autobiographical staged photographs, none of which showed her face, would take two years to get published; in 1978, the photos appeared in her book Re-visions by the Toronto-based Coach House Press).

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Around this same time, she was teaching photography classes at Queens College and NYU by day, spending her weekends at Soho art galleries and going out every night to hear live music. Beginning in 1977, when she was 26 years old, Resnick became a habitué of the New York City downtown scene, hanging out at CBGB’s, Max’s Kansas City, and the Mudd Club, which was also a venue for various artistic events, film showings, private parties and readings (she went those at KGB Bar too).

In May 1977, during an interview with Rolling Stone, Resnick was asked, “If you could be in any one situation anywhere, at any time, with anyone and any camera, what would it be?” She answered, “I would like to be in bed with Iggy Pop and a Polaroid.” That led to her meeting Iggy Pop, and take photos of him in an intimate photo session, one of which appears in her new book.

She traveled to Egypt alone in July 1977, where she became the virtual prison of a deranged Arab soldier, but she was able to turn the horrible experience into a positive, using it as a springboard for her portrait work back in New York City, focusing on “emotional geography of the human face,” while she continued to point her camera lens almost exclusively at men, although there are female subjects here and there too.

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After she began shooting for the Soho Weekly News, she now had a press pass and access to a wide range of celebrities, personalities, and politicians. Her work — now tending towards portraiture, including self-portraits — began appearing in New York Magazine and other periodicals, giving her exclusive access to many of countercultural movers and shakers from the worlds of jazz, rock and roll, literature, avant-garde and street art, theater and film.

She was living the life even as she documented it with her photos, taking candids backstage or in dressing rooms at the clubs, becoming friends and developing relationships with the people she photographed, including William S. Burroughs, Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, the members of Blondie, Lydia Lunch, John Belushi, and David Byrne. The list of the people she’s photographed reads like a Who’ Who of the 70s. Her work now tells us as much about the era itself as it does about the photographer and her talent.

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She would often invite them all back to her Tribeca loft home studio for photo sessions where, as she says, “atmosphere could be generated, lighting could be manipulated and props could be employed.”

She photographed the enfants terribles of the punk work — Johnny Thunders, John Lydon and other leading figures — as well as cultural icons Andy Warhol, William Burroughs, Mick Jagger and Belushi.

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Last year she told the Village Voice about this Belushi photo:

“The John Belushi shoot — that was a big surprise,” she says, referring to the late actor-comedian who graces the cover of the book. Resnick met Belushi in September of 1981, at an after-hours party at the club AM-PM, and asked him to sit for her. “I went over to him and said, ‘When are you gonna do a photo session with me?’ He said, ‘Now.’

“I didn’t believe him. So I just went about my business for the rest of the night, and then I went home and saw a limo in front of my building. With him and his entourage waiting for me.” It was 6 a.m., and she hadn’t slept, but she managed to grab her camera, pull together some props, and guide him through what would be his final photo shoot. Belushi died of a drug overdose six months later.

The outcome of this photo session became Chapter 15 in Bob Woodward’s book Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi.

In 1978, Resnick photographed artist Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Mudd Club. He had become the toast of the art world after being praised in Rene Ricard’s article “The Radiant Child” in Artforum magazine.

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That same year, 1978, she shot German-born Klaus Nomi, originally Klaus Sperber, a former pastry chef who was about to re-invent himself as a new wave opera singer.

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In 1980, she photographed Mick Jagger, William S. Burroughs and Andy Warhol having dinner at Burroughs’s residence on the Bowery, called “The Bunker.” “The atmosphere was palpable,” she has said about her memory of the evening. “A food fight erupted. Then, the egos of these three charismatic gods of the counterculture clashed, resulting in a profound silence.”

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Marcia Resnick still lives and works in New York City. Punks, Poets and Provocateurs, NYC Bad Boys 1977-1982 was published, in November 2015, by Insight Editions. Her photos can be see at Howl Happening!, on the lower east side, 6 E 1st St, New York, NY 10003 (February 4 – March 2, 2016).

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.