MY photo of Alice Bag in “American Sabor,” the traveling Smithsonian Exhibit!! Alice Bag aka Alicia Velasquez, acclaimed performer and author.
“I had the good fortune to have as my first interview Ms. Jenny Lens, the legendary punk photographer who shot some of the most iconic images of Patti Smith, The Ramones, The Screamers and so many others. I’ve considered Jenny a friend for well over twenty years now and believe me when I say that the stories she shares in her interview are not even the tip of the iceberg.
She is one of the unsung heroines of the movement. Enjoy! Alice.
Alice Bag’s Amazon review of Punk Pioneers: Jenny documented the work of artists from all backgrounds and ethnicities. She was one of a handful who documented the early Hollywood punk scene, which was pretty well integrated. Jenny was never afraid of me and that’s saying something, because lots of people were.
Punk Pioneers by Jenny Lens is far and away the most awesome coffee table quality book about the early punk scene. It contains an incredible range of artists that were around during punk’s conception, birth, and childhood. Its scope is much broader and helps the reader understand where punk was coming from and what was going on in the parallel musical universes of bands like Van Halen and artists like Bob Marley.
I think this aspect of Jenny’s book is really important, because as I’ve said time and time again, seeing early punk in isolation does not really convey how far it was from the mainstream nor does it acknowledge the influences of what came before it. Jenny’s book acknowledges the New York [and British] punk and early glam bands that set the stage for what would become a unique West Coast cultural movement. Punk Pioneers cements Jenny’s status as punk photography’s Alpha Bitch.
Cherie the Penguin: LOL at the thought of Jenny Lens being afraid of ANYONE!!! Fat chance!
Pleasant Gehman: “Another person who was massively talented, and is sitting on a goldmine of historic photos, is Jenny Lens. She was out every night, she shot EVERYONE. Great live shots and also candid stuff at parties. She should do a book - or a few. She has plenty of material!” [From Alice Bag’s “Women in LA Punk,” but it’s gone from her current site.]
[Not exactly “sitting.” Takes time, money, tech skills, hardware, software and a receptive audience. I offered to help her publish her diary. Not an easy task. I haven’t given up. Yet. But time is running out!]
Roger Gastman: acclaimed film-maker, book producer and quite a man of accomplishment, called Jenny Lens a “force of nature.” One of the Germ’s movie producers introduced her to his father as “a fun roller coaster ride.” “Ball of Fire!” “Fireball, a 5 year old in a woman’s body (thanks Neeka Nika).
John Holmstrom of Punk magazine fame: Always wished you contributed to Punk.
Exene Cervenka, X: “Jenny, you are the only photographer who takes photos while high on acid which are better than more well known photographers.”
Gianni Rage: what strange landscapes you punx navigated! I often wonder if folks like yerself Jenny Lens if you don’t occasionally sit back and shake your head and say “OH MY GOD WE WERE SO OUT THERE!!!”
Hellin Killer aka Helena Alicia Roessler: Jenny you documented history in the making and no matter what any body else says …. She’s the genius behind these… love the book maybe more so because Jenny is a dear friend and a great photojournalistic historian of the period… Or maybe just cuz it’s like a kind of high school yearbook for me? Great Book!
Louis Jacinto, LA punk photographer: You captured the old days like no one else.
David Jones, LA Punk Archivist/Musician: Re Jenny’s writing in Alice Bag’s LA Women of Punk: First of all, adjectives: this is beautiful, poignant, true. Like all my favorite writing what you share here is honest, born of experience – both painful and joyful — and intelligent. It’s wonderful to read, and important to get out into the world.
It’s your own perspective on the LA punk experience and it’s better than 99% of what I’ve seen in print on the subject. Not that writing is a competitive pursuit, I’m just trying to say that I like it more and I think you did a better job than most of the writers who’ve written on the subject matter.
Kristian Hoffman, Mumps and famous singer/songwriter: What a wonderful exciting fun filled interview. Your enthusiasm is completely contagious, and you brought back so many memories to me of my own punk adventures! Thanks for the sweet mention of me and my music — finally someone put me in the company of all those bands I adore!
I can’t wait for the huge glossy coffee table book some one is obviously going to have to make of your legacy — the most important photographer of the punk era! XOX Kristian
Mark Vallen, Slash cover artist, Decline of Western Civilization graphic artist: Thank you both for the insightful interview. Jenny, you are so full of surprises… someday you are going to have to write that book. I’ll never be able to look at Iggy Pop the same way again!
Jenny DID write that book, but the editor limited her text and what was left was edited badly by him.
Artifix Greg: Amazing Photographer is an Inspiration! I was on Amazon and I saw that your book is finally coming out! Great news there!!!!! You’ve inspired us at Artifix Records with your work and friendship. You have produced an amazing body of work and you will be remembered forever. I see the name Jenny Lens popping up so much now! In just a few short years, you have really re-established yourself and you are the top dog! Congratulations!
Peter Case, Plimsouls, Nerves and acclaimed solo career:
Thanks a lot for showing me these shots the other day…they’re really great!…I’m impressed by your archives. Thanks again for the shots, showing ’em, shootin’ em! It really is a piece of history you’ve got there. best Peter
Bruce Barf, Masque MC: Wow thanks jenny, what great pictures, I think at least half those people are dead, thank you.
Punk Pioneers Reviews from Amazon
The photographs of Jenny Lens—many unseen, and many more well-known but seldom credited—are poignant reminiscences of a rude and rowdy moment in punk rock history. From 1976 to 1980, Lens took early shots of groups that would go on to be legendary: the Germs, the Go-Gos, Blondie, the Ramones, the Damned, the Clash, Iggy Pop, and many more. Punk Pioneers chronicles the music scene as it raged from stadium and glam rock to punk, steadfastly archiving early pioneers, followers, writers, fans, and performers at shows, backstage, and at parties.
Lens reveals untold stories with rare and candid images: Joey Ramone poolside before a show in San Francisco; Debbie Harry tearing off her wedding dress on stage in L.A.; Iggy Pop painting on a whim in the Hollywood Hills. This book stands alone as a record of punk legend, capturing the energy and brilliance, passion and frustration, and most importantly the fight for music and art that embodied the punk movement. Featuring a foreword by renowned photographer Glen E. Friedman, this is one of the most important and most beautiful collections of photography of the least documented era in punk.
Cherie Penguin: This book is the bomb! I like the book because it shows the musicians (and fans) in impromptu settings, which creates an air of being there. I like the large photo layout and the fact that there is not too much text to distract the reader from focusing on what’s going on in the photos. It has become my new “coffee table” book!
Rosemarie Patronette: Jenny Lens is an amazing artist, and these photos are fantastic works of art. Thank you so much, Jenny, for doing what you did. This book comes out at precisely the right time, to document this wonderful history in which all of the LA punks were fortunate enough to share. Jenny was selfless in her efforts to document this slice of LA history. We all owe her a debt of gratitude for the personal sacrifice she undertook to bring us this seminal document of the LA punk scene. It was a long time coming, but worth the wait because the result is something that will last forever. For all of those who were there, survivors of the LA punk scene, and for all those who passed, whose images you have immortalized, we thank you. YOU ROCK! ~Wyline
Billy Ayres (his father Tom helped break Bowie in USA): I waited 32 years for any book from Jenny Lens ! “Punk Pioneers” is a MUSTHave . Go to punkpioneers.com and see sample photos first! I was so excited to see so many people i knew who No One ever writes about , For years i’ve been telling her and everyone that Jenny Lens took the most and Best photos of that scene. “Punk Pioneers’ Proves it . I met Jenny at the first Ramones LA shows in August 1976, I saw her at all the partys and shows . She was funny and kind, and gave me some Ramones prints. I called her the minute my book arrived. Whenever i talked about someone or an event, she described a photo from that event we laughed and talked for hours sharing stories.
I grew up with Bowie [my late father helped in his early career in the US], Iggy, Rodney Bingenheimer and so many from the early Glitter to early Punk days, Jenny Lens’ photos bring back so many memories of those fun early Punk days.
The Ramones, The Clash , The Sex Pistols, The Germs, X, Iggy Pop or even The Rolling Stones and rarely heard or seen bands like the Screamers, Bags , Weirdos and Levi and The Rockats, and parties and more [written in 2008]. She writes about the bands too. Well done.
Bill Mullen: This is the coolest of scenes, expressed through the photographs and words of the divine Jenny Lens, who was there… lived through it… and came out alive and more than well with not only the FANTASTIC images of the scene that she lived, but with humor and history and the perspective that this amazing, and fleeting, moment deserves.
Yes yes yes of course London and New York were important… but this is a whole other animal, as special and particular as the city of Los Angeles itself. Bubbling under, literally, the city of Hollywood… this was as vital and strange and funny and dangerous and important as any other punk capital, and these photos are as vital and strange and funny and dangerous and important… and I am going to add beautiful… as anything you will ever see documenting ‘punk.” and by the way, all of your NYC and London friends are in here too.
Jenny is a true original, someone who has been there beyond and back, with brilliant tales to tell and see.
Jon C. Cockrill: Punk Pioneers is a truly fantastic collection of writing and pictures from one of LA punk’s greatest artists. Unfortunately, the early LA punk scene always took a back seat to New York and England; which no doubt, is a shame. When one fast forwards to over 3 decades later, it’s easy to see LA punk may have actually had a bigger impact on the music scene than its east coast and trans Atlantic counterparts. Jenny’s book gives LA its due credit, and captures the essence of this creative, unique, and influential scene. In addition, it includes excellent shots of NY and the UK.
I’ve been waiting for Jenny’s book for years; I’ve always considered her the greatest photographer / punk historian there is. This book validates that view: these amazing photographs breathe life back into the days of old. I put on a compilation of 70’s punk, turned the cell phone off, and allowed Jenny to take me on an incredible journey … what a trip!
You took some amazing pics during an incredible time. I am grateful that you had enough foresight to always have a camera handy. Thanks for seeing what was happening! Thanks for posting these!
Joel: First of all let me just say you are (in my opinion) the greatest photographer ever. You have captured my favorite thing in the whole world and trapped it in time. Thank god you were there to take pictures, because its basically all gone and those pictures are the only place it still exists. When I saw the pictures of the masque on your website I almost had an aneurysm. Never before have I seen this much of a glimpse into what happened. That basement is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, and those pictures are from when it actually was going on which makes them fucking transcendental.
Mick Rhodes: I love that this great book, full of amazingly candid early photos from some of the most influential musicians of the punk era, is $19.77!!! [Not now due to being out of print] Thanks to Jenny Lens for documenting the folks that would become my heroes a few years later. I was a suburban LA 7th grader when punk started happening in Hollywood. I missed the first couple of years but finally caught up in 1979, idolizing a lot of the subjects in this book. Thanks for having the prescience and art power to make this book happen! I LOVE IT!
gregZ: I am so excited to get my hands on this. I have looked through it, and it is even better than I could have imagined. You should feel great about this. I’m sure there are hundreds of people for each photo that feel that the SoCal scene has been justified that much more. For those who were there, it’s a souvenir, a document. For those who want to find out how things came about, well, here’s photojournalism at it’s best. Thank you Jenny Lens, a great talent far too long overlooked.