Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie and the advent of punk

Chris Stein/negative: me, Blondie and the advent of punk, Somerset House

I recently treated myself to a culture + party weekend in London. It was all about Gordon's dingy wine bar, steamy Soho, after-dark underground Dalston and a sleepy Sunday wander through Spitalfields Market

One highlight amidst these was a trip to Somerset House to see the current (free) exhibition of Chris Stein's photographs of his years hanging out with Blondie and the punk set in 1970s and 80s New York, where New Wave ruled with its favourite partners in crime – drugs, booze and sartorialism.

Debbie Harry of course takes fantastic pictures, and this is several rooms of brilliantly nostalgic, edgy and irresistibly hedonistic imagery – what's not to love? Chris Stein is a guitarist and co-founder of Blondie and offers an intimate vision of the band's behind-the-scenes lifestyle with his photographs.

Included in the exhibition is a large pamphlet of two essays by Stein and Harry talking about photography and voyeurism respectively ("I had no idea that Chris was a voyeur when I met him. How could I know? I'm joking... a bit").

It was Stein's piece on the universality of contemporary photography, specifically through Instagram,  that particularly struck me.

"Of late, I really like looking at Instagram. one hundred  fifty million people taking and putting up more than sixteen billion images that's somewhat like the one Cocteau spoke of ['film will only become art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper'].

"Instagram is filled with boring snapshots of pets and food as well as people who are aware of what they are pressing on their 'public.' But every now and then I will come upon an image that is fantastic in its innocence and, some little illuminated square that makes me really wonder if the person who took it knows how good it is."

This is an exhibition simple in curation and concept, but rich in the thought and inspiration it provokes. Catch it before it's gone.





Chris Stein/negative: me, Blondie and the advent of punk runs at Somerset House until Sunday 25 January. 

Visit: somersethouse.org.uk

Photos: Chris Stein/Somerset House



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