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Thirty-six years ago, Kevin Salk was a senior at Mira Costa High School. “I grew up in a divorced family, and was one of the only Jewish kids in Manhattan Beach,” Salk tells the Weekly. “This alienation led me to music, and this is right when punk rock came around; and when you feel out of place and angry it’s the perfect outlet. I just loved the intensity of the music, it drew me in.”

Salk recalls that during this period around 1983, he regularly went to shows with friends, seeing such seminal punk bands as The Descendents, Circle Jerks, Misfits, Minor Threat, Black Flag and more. He even ended up befriending members of Black Flag.

Kevin Salk, Circle Jerks

Due to his enrollment in a photography class at Mira Costa, Salk began taking pictures — at first for assignments, then as a hobby. “I even built a darkroom in my bathroom to develop my pictures. It began in photography class but I can’t put a finger on why I started taking pictures at shows,” Salk says. “I think it was just to capture the moments with my friends. The shows were intense and full of energy, plus I was able to get close to the bands. Since I kind of knew Black Flag, I could get close to the band and onstage and that gave me credibility; but I wasn’t a professional I was just a kid, and more importantly a fan with a camera. These pictures are all from a fan’s perspective.”

After graduating Mira Costa, Salk left California for college at Arizona State, and never looked back. “I never went to a punk rock show again or took another picture. I slowly got into metal and hard rock bands and just immersed myself in college life,” he says. “As for these pictures, thank God, luckily I kept them and the negatives in proper storage boxes, in plastic and they were preserved, even though I didn’t do anything with them for all these years.”

Salk, who is an institutional consultant and corporate financial adviser, says that he reconnected with punk rock some years back, and a spark ignited his passion for punk rock and the photos he took decades ago. “The first punk rock show since I took those pictures was Pennywise at the Hollywood Palladium and it was great.”

Kevin Salk, Misfits #3

Salk made a simple website and had hits from a few people, including people in Australia who purchased some of his prints for skateboards. But he never thought people would be this interested. “I never thought it could be this big,” he said. “But in July I got an email from Fathom Gallery in L.A. about doing an exhibit of my pictures. I always wanted to do a show, I have friends who are artists, and my girlfriend works in the arts, but I never had the bandwidth or infrastructure to do it, until now.”

This month Fathom Gallery in Los Angeles hosts Punk Photography: A Fan’s Perspective, featuring over 20 of Salk’s most compelling shots of bands such as Misfits, Black Flag, Minor Threat, and others. Over 300 people were in attendance at the opening o January 11, and the show remains on view through January 25. “This has been a chapter in my life that is being republished and I’m having the time of my life,” Salk says. “This has given me a chance to get into the art world. It was stressful and overwhelming — but in a good way!”

Kevin Salk and Jim from Pennywise at Fathom Gallery (Photo by Alex Distefano)

Salk is currently writing a book on his experience in the punk scene, and time taking pictures at shows. “I actually reconnected with Ian MacKaye from Minor Threat, as well as several other of the musicians in these pictures, like Black Flag and Misfits. I want their involvement, I want this to be fun, I want funny stories,” Salk says. “I’m getting help from the guys in Pennywise, Jimmy and Fletcher are actually writing the forward to my book.”

Salk is grateful that people have an interest in these pictures from the punk scene. “This whole experience has been very humbling to me,” he says. “What makes me sad is that I can’t share this with my mom who passed 15 years ago. She’s looking down on me smiling.”

Kevin Salk opening at Fathom Gallery (Photo by Alex Distefano)

Find Kevin Salk on Instagram @kevinsalkpunkrockphotography. The exhibition is on view at Fathom Gallery through January 25th.

Kevin Salk, Misfits #1

LA Weekly