In the 1970s, a new wave of music, fashion and attitude started to hit the streets of London. They called it ‘punk’. As shop fronts changed and creativity began to flourish under a different, non-conformist flag – photographer Sheila Rock documented one of the most influential and interesting moments in British history. Upon the release of her photo book, ‘Punk+‘, we spoke with Sheila about the impact of punk and it’s effect on the future.
By Meghan Player
Congratulations on the release of ‘Punk+’ – are you excited to have released the book?
Thank you. I’m very excited about the book and all the wonderful positive press I have been getting.
How have people been reacting to it thus far?
The response has been almost unanimously affirmative both in content and the design of the book. I love the fact the book has a volume of unseen photographs and the lavish design makes it feel like an important social document.
You’ve described the book as “one of many chapters” in your life – was it fascinating to go back and look at that part of your life?
Absolutely. I hadn’t thought about the punk time for many years. Or seen many of these people for over 25 – 30 years. Reconnecting with old friends and people who had surfaced during this time and flourished in the years ahead has been interesting. We were all effected by the raw energy and the creative opportunities of the time.
Were there photos and stories that you had previously forgotten about?
For the most part, yes. The photos were kept in a box in my garden shed titled “Rough”. Of course I referred to the Clash and Jam and Lydon pictures over the years because of the popularity of these artists, but not the other work. I had not looked at the reportage pictures of young punks or even the series of fashion shops that were so important in creating the punk look.
Do you have a particular favourite memory of the punk scene that still strikes a chord with you?
I remember going to Acme Attractions the day it changed from retro shop to punk; a day when 1960s memorabilia was taken away and the entire shop was covered in black dustbin liners. Early punk was home-made; it was about customisation and do it yourself. What was more inventive then changing the interior of the shop by covering it in black bin liners?
It was also the day the Bromley Contigent visited and I thought they looked extraordinary. New WaveFashionistas; impeccably dressed and cool. Siouxsie, Steven Severin and Billy Idol were amongst them.
Did you realise at the time how much the punk scene would influence and shape the course for future generations – in regards to music, fashion etc?
I had no idea the punk scene would have such an impact on the youth of the future. It was about challenging the norms of the day and expressing one’s individuality. These are things that resonate, but when you are living the life it’s hard to see its importance.
Do you think the modern punk messages are the same?
Yes…. if the message is about challenging ideas and being creative.
Do you think that punk is dead?
There is always individual thinking so how can punk be dead.
Many thanks to Sheila for taking the time to chat to us. Special thanks also to Lee Stop. You can purchase a copy of ‘Punk+’ at: http://www.firstthirdbooks.com/books/punk/