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Queen City Gallery: NY Underground Scene 1972 - 1977

Photography by Paul Zone at Queen City Gallery

Debby Harry, photo by Paul Zone

The eyes tell their stories. Eyes streaked with mascara, fogged and hollow with drug use, obscured by dark glasses—eyes leaden, lidded, vacant, searching, clenched and pleased. Faces too, rouged, painted and masked. Faces that stare from a soundless stage, improbably captured in Polaroids and snapshots from a Brownie by the kid brother of a band member who just hung around the group’s gigs and took pictures.

He gradually became something of a mascot and friend to the soon to be famous singers, actors, and musicians that made their names in the lower Manhattan art and music world of the 1970s. These are photos so locked in time that it’s hard to look at them without hearing the music playing.

The litany of personalities is perhaps familiar—The NY Dolls, Lou Reed , The Ramones, Iggy Pop, Blondie even Lance Loud and “Divine”(real name Harris Glen Milstead). This was the coteri of the cognocenti that bridged the transition from late 60s “peace pop” to raw visceral coruscating stage performances costumed in every artifice to confound audience expectations—stacked heels, elaborate wigs, make-up, tights, bustiers all in the service of “genderbending” and the shock of “unisex”. A highly Baroque episode in the culture of entertainment, the “underground” scene was taken to every extreme and lived on the edge of care and consciousness. For those now middle-aged fans of the “Glam Rock” of the seventies courting nostalgia, looking at these photos (only just shown in LA), the desire to prove one was part of “the magic” must be very strong.

The nascent assurance of the photographer is remarkable, as his closeness to the observed allows him to visually seize these figures in candid nuance—in performance, at the beach and in their humanity strewn lofts two or three bands before they became the weighted icons of an era.

j. tim raymond

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