The achievements of Glen E. Friedman are, in a word, staggering. Between the mid-1970s and the late 1980s he emerged as the defining photographer of three distinct, related, and very important subcultures—the skateboarding scene of Dogtown in southern California, the hardcore scenes of L.A., D.C., and elsewhere, and the rap scene of NYC.
The hardcore and rap scenes of the early 1980s had some overlaps, as evidenced by the careers of Beastie Boys and Rick Rubin, for instance, but it wasn’t common for photographers to be so at home in both worlds during that time. It’s tempting to find refuge in the insecure hidey hole of saying how “easy” it would be to take these pictures if only you had been on the scene, but it was the overpowering passion of Friedman that caused him to seek out and find a place there. The truth is that it wasn’t “easy” at all, as evidenced by the fact that he was the only person to accumulate a portfolio of this range and quality.
In the mid-1990s he published his first book of pictures, called Fuck You Heroes, an overview of the first 15 years of his career, and also put together a traveling exhibition. In 1998 that show went to Rome, under the title Fuck You All, and while he was there an Italian film crew put together a stimulating documentary structured around a lengthy interview, under the obvious title of Fanculo a Tutti, which is Italian for “Fuck You All.”
In the film he explains why this phrase “Fuck You” is so important to him. The act of saying “Fuck you, I don’t care, fuck you” is actually integral to creating art that is compelling and dangerous in a cultural and oftentimes political sense. As he says, his subjects are “heroes because they say ‘Fuck You’. ... They’re people who say ‘Fuck You’ and they’re heroes because of it.”
My favorite bit is when he brings in a nearby tradesperson to punctuate a point he is making about the importance of hard work in getting things just right.
Friedman’s been a friend of the website for many years now—we love his work as well as his outspoken blog What the Fuck Have You Done? (which often features posts from DM as well). His other books include My Rules, Fuck You Too, and The Idealist: In My Eyes 25 Years.
Below is the documentary followed by a brief sample of Friedman’s work.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘My Rules’: Glen E. Friedman book documents hardcore punk, hip hop, skaters and YOU NEED IT