Few captured the raw grit and emotion of New York’s 1970s punk scene quite like photographer Bobby Grossman. “It seemed like Bobby always had his black leather jacket, his Wayfarer shades and his camera and wherever you went he was there,” says Glenn O’Brien, host of long-gone cable access show TV Party. “He was never on assignment. I don’t think Bobby really thought about what he was going to do with the pictures, but I do think he knew that they were important.”
“To commemorate the 40th anniversary of his graduation from Rhode Island School of Design, Grossman returns to the Renaissance City with a visual bounty from the historic heights of New York’s punk, New Wave and No Wave scenes. A few of the celebs featured in the show’s offerings include Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Debbie Harry and Blondie, Lou Reed, The Ramones, Fab 5 Freddy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Talking Heads. Many of these shots were taken at New York venues like CBGB and the Mudd Club, widely known as epicenters of the underground in Grossman’s day.
Grossman was a fixture in this crowd, having been invited to CBGB by his friends and schoolmates David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth (a.k.a. Talking Heads). Eventually, Grossman began visiting CBGB nearly nightly for two years. In September 1976, he shot his first roll of film there, documenting a Ramones show and later developing the pictures at a local drugstore. Conforming to punk’s DIY ethos, Grossman had received no formal training in photography at RISD. Rather he had obtained a BFA in Illustration, working with media like collage, airbrush, paint and silkscreen. Once he began assisting Interview cover artist Richard Bernstein, Grossman began snapping pictures.
His initial rig was a Konica point-and-shoot, sometimes shot from the hip to wildly varying results. Once he graduated to a Rollei and, later, a SLR (the Nikon FE), Grossman’s compositional acumen matured. His photos are largely monochromatic, leaving the expressive faces of his subjects intact and undisturbed by the luxury of color. Some of his photos are spontaneous and quick, like slices of cinéma vérité, while others feature playful poses or coolly arranged staging. In the latter group are Grossman’s shots of Warhol, Harry and others eating Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.”