Prior to arriving in Los Angeles in 1978, photographer Ann Summa hitchhiked across the African continent. By herself. Obviously, challenging situations don’t faze Summa, so when she stumbled into L.A.’s newly born punk scene, she simply grabbed her camera and dove into the fray.
Mind you, L.A.’s ’70s punk scene was a far cry from the testosterone fest we’re stuck with today. That first wave, born in 1977, was something altogether different. It had ripened to perfection by 1980, and lay rotting on the ground by 1984, but for seven years it was amazing. The stereotypes hadn’t solidified yet, so creative diversity flourished, and the variety of entertainment one could see on a single night, in the same club, was astonishing. Weird art bands (Nervous Gender, the Screamers), savagely funny musical satire (Black Randy & the Metro Squad), lugubrious delta blues (the Cramps), classic punk with a feminist twist (the Bags), full-on, indefinable genius (X) — the list of young bands was long and very wonderful.
During those years, punk bands played in tiny clubs, where Summa had no trouble positioning herself at the lip of the stage, and the pictures she took are remarkable. The L.A. punk community was small then, and it really was a community — everyone knew everyone, and people helped and supported one another. The handful of photographers on the scene — Summa, Frank Gargani, Jenny Lens and Melanie Nissen, among others — were part of the community too, and photographs from that time and place are infused with an intimacy that you won’t find in most “rock photography.”
Summa filed her punk photographs away long ago, but when a mercurial landlord prompted her to move her photo archive, she happened to look at the pictures and was surprised by how affecting she found them. Track 16 Gallery agreed that the photographs constitute a powerful document, and a selection of 35 of them opens November 17.
LOS ANGELES: PHOTOS BY ANN SUMMA | Track 16 Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., C1, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica | (310) 264-4678 or www.track16.com?| Through December 15