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California Screamin’

Punk rock takes a razor blade to West Coast fashion in the photography of We’re Desperate

New York City had more attitude, and London was more political; but for pure showmanship, the West Coast punk scene was unrivaled–especially if said showmanship was taking place onthe hood of a vintage car. “We did not like poseurs, but we liked to pose for pictures,” writes X’s Exene Cervenka in We’reDesperate: The Punk Rock Photography of Jim Jocoy, SF/LA 78-80(PowerHouse Books).

Jocoy, a South Korean immigrant and novice photographer, tookadvantage of the movement’s exhibitionist streak in documenting the mostsartorially inventive denizens of the clubs, parking lots, alleys,and toilets of Los Angeles and San Francisco. “Most of us were justkind of scraping by, but everyone was going out every night,” Jocoyrecalls. “You were a fan one minute, and the next, you were onstagein your own band.” With its garish full-body shots and luridclose-ups, We’re Desperate is populated by a cast of wastoids,new-wavers,skinny-tied proto-Strokes, and slick rockabilly cats and kittens;in true punk spirit, “stars” like the Cramps, Darby Crash, and theAvengers are indistinguishable from the nobodies. “Each shoot tookless than five minutes,” says Jocoy. “I’d always take threepictures. In the first one, [the subject] would be formal; by thesecond one, they’d get more animated; and by the third, they’d havethe snarling attitude. It was a dance, in a way.”