New York, 1977. It began with a book, a paperback with black and white photographs of the punk scene. The book was titled White Trash and it featured the boldest of the boldface names: Patti Smith, Richard Hell, Debbie Harry, Halston, Andy Warhol, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Divine, and John Waters. Add to that a splash of Man Ray, Tennessee Williams, and Marilyn Chambers, and you’ve nailed it. White Trash, Christopher Makos’ photography book, is the place where pop meets pulp, perfectly defining the D.I.Y. ethos of the times. The book has become a seminal volume of the times and now sells for upwards of $500.
However, the original edition is a paperback, and paperbacks are not designed to last. They’re disposable (like, say, white trash). And if you crack the spine too wide, the entire thing might fall apart in your hands. We are fortunate, then, that Glitterati Incorporated has released a revised and expanded edition in hardcover.
White Trash Uncut, Makos’ updated monograph, is a lavish affair. This tall, slim volume features the photographs uncropped (unlike the 1977 edition). It also features a selection of never-before-published photographs of Grace Jones, among others. Included throughout the book is the use of silver, making the pages come alive. Everything about the book is luxurious, and in that way it becomes a statement of the times. Punk has passed; that New York is long gone. But what lives in its place are photographs, memories, and stories.
As Makos writes in the book, “I never really intended to do a book about PUNK. As the light on the disco ball at Studio 54, and the last refrains of Donna Summers’ ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ started to fade in the distance, the lexicon of PUNK was starting to make some noise with its two- and three-chord musical impressions. And I was there merely to record that moment, without thinking much about the future of that moment as I recorded it.”
It is this record that stands, nearly four decades after the fact as a work of art as well as an artifact. These photographs are evidence, as much as they are inspiration. They are how it used to be, a world so long ago, we can barely begin to conceive. Yet here it is, with every turn of the page.
As Makos writes, “During the seven-day period in 1976 that I started documenting my friends, I realized I was documenting the personal style I was trying to identify; it was what the media of the time was calling PUNK; today it’s called Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. With the flamboyance and excesses of the disco years, I, along with Debbie Harry, Richard Hell, Tom Verlaine, among others, found my way into the scene of ‘simple,’ where less is more. A great example is the streamlined Steven Sprouse knit wool dress that Debbie Harry is wearing on the cover of this book; or exemplified by the time I attended Halston’s fashion show at the then most-important skyscraper in New York City, Olympic Towers—then owned by the newsworthy newlywed and husband of Jackie Kennedy, Aristotle Onassis—just wearing a black garbage bag.”