35 years on, the Visible Girls are still drawing crowds.
This time, it was the punks taking centre stage at the Punk Weekender. The event was held at The Photographers’ Gallery in central London, the original independent gallery dedicated to the photographic image.
It wasn’t their first visit, either. It was in 1984 that the Visible Girls first adorned those walls and there they were again, 32 years later: Shelley and Di, Badger and Maria, Margi and Samantha – not framed prints this time, but digitised on a 4x6m video display wall, back-dropped by The Stranglers, X-Ray Specs and The Clash. A very different experience second time round!
What really excited me was that for the first time I actually got to meet the photographers of that era – Derek Ridgers and Janette Beckman – alongside whom I had been out on the London streets photographing youth over 3 decades ago.
In fact that night, the past and present were weaving together in all sorts of ways. My children were there, along with 4 of the original Visible Girls. Original ex-punks and young tattooed hipsters. Old high school friends and Clive Crook, my first Art Director at The Sunday Times. Well-travelled photographers being interviewed by 21-year-old journalists so that the new generation could read about the old school image-makers.
And certainly, the spirit of punk seemed to have influenced the weather that night: stormy, unpredictable and highly charged – with the added shock of the day’s Referendum result. What would the original punks have made of it all, I wonder, if they could have looked forward in time at what was unfolding in their country right now?