Saturday, 24 December 2011

What Presence? - The Rock Photography of Harry Papadopoulos

Street Level, Glasgow, December 17th 2011- February 2th 2012
5 stars
Harry Papadopoulos is the great unsung documenter of post-punk, who,
between 1978 and 1984, captured a crucial era in pop history in all its
geeky glory. Having started out taking snaps for Bobby Bluebell’s
fanzine, The Ten Commandments, and orbiting around Postcard Records’
extended family of jangular mavericks who would go on to define
themselves as The Sound of Young Scotland, Papadopoulos became a staff
photographer on music paper Sounds. Where contemporaries on NME such as
Anton Corbijn and Kevin Cummins have been rightly lionised for their
work, Papadopoulos’ canon has been all but airbrushed from history. The
significance of this major excavation of a huge body of work, then,
cannot be understated.

With more than three hundred images on show, the fertile Scot-pop scene
inevitably dominates. A gangly and giggly Orange Juice era Edwyn
Collins skates on thin ice. Josef K vocalist Paul Haig poses like a
nouvelle vague matinee idol. A tweedy-looking Aztec Camera chew on
pipes like elderly uncles before their time. A demented looking Davy
Henderson of Fire Engines roars into a microphone, his face taut with
urgent, sinewy contortions. A fragrant Claire Grogan perches on a park
bench looking, well, lovely. Co-curator Ken McLuskey’s band The
Bluebells pack into an open-topped sports car.

There’s a wonderfully gawky naturalness to this fabulous archive that
pre-dates celebrity culture during a time when politics and pop were
inseparable. A striking portrait of Gil Scott-Heron is set next to one
of Tom Robinson, Bronski Beat’s Jimmy Somerville and future Erasure
vocalist Andy Bell line up for a gay rights march. Jerry Dammers and
The Specials AKA squeeze into frame at the bottom of a stairwell. The
Clash are captured in full barricade-manning flight. With a series of
events to accompany the show, What Presence! is an unmissable history
lesson from a major artist. Publication of a bumper-size coffee-table
book would be even more essential.

The List, December 2011

ends

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