Photographer Roberta Bayley was a real protagonist in the emergence of punk culture in New York in the 1970s: she was at the forefront of the action and shot superstars from the Ramones, Blondie, and The Clash. If being a privileged insider into the inner-mayhem of the punk era does not define you as the epitome of cool, her shock of red hair, badass outfits, and sidekick pugs slot her straight in without a doubt.
The Centro Cultural Borges showcases the professional highlights of Bayley’s initial career in the 70’s with the exhibition Ramones & CBGB, Del Caos a la Cultura which opened on Friday, September 7th and will continue through the 30th of this month.
Before you dig in, check out this punk-inspired Spotify playlist and get in the mood:
Bayley grew up in California and swiftly followed the excitement of the punk era into New York where she met Hilly Crystal, the owner of the infamous NYC punk club CBGB. “Chaos” may be an appropriate description of the beginning of her career, as she almost fell into photography in a hapless way; she started working at the door of the club as a favor to her newfound pal. She then became friends with the “regulars,” from anyone from the Atomic singer herself, to Billy Idol, to the New York Dolls.
Next thing she knew, she bought her first Pentax Spotmatic camera and was photographing legends of the era (and of all music, ever?) in the club. In an interview with Silencio, she stated: “It was a very fun time to document what was happening in CBGB. For me it was a privilege to take pictures there, I didn’t do it thinking about money. Also, nobody had a penny, so it made sense that no one paid me.”
She then became the Chief photographer of Punk Magazine where the lists of musical legends she photographed spiraled out of control from The Sex Pistols to The Clash to Mick Jagger. She was extremely innovative in the industry, pushing boundaries and norms of music photography. With the famous Ramones’ shot of all four band members (pictured above), Bayley chose to photograph them in black and white, even though this was not the fashion, as it was more usual for folk artists such as Bob Dylan. For someone who accidentally started taking some photos of her mates, she produced timeless masterpieces.
You can see the visual chronological emergence of punk in New York through Bayley’s work at the Centro Cultural Borges which is located in the Galerías Pacífico mall. I suggest you cue up “Lust for life” by Iggy Pop on Spotify and prepare to witness parts of the punk scene you forgot existed, along with the rest of the 70’s.
If all of this talk of gritty punk and the good old days has made you keen to expand your own personal collection, you can peruse and purchase Bayley’s prints at the newly minted Music Photo Book Store on Arroyo 877 in Retiro.
Take note that you can attend a talk open to the public with the photographer herself this Thursday, September 13 at 7PM at the CC Borges.
Ramones & CBGB, Del Caos a la Cultura | Centro Cultural Borges | Viamonte 525 | September 7-30