Culture  /  Art History

The Kids Of Bowery's Hardcore 'Matinee,' Then And Now

Drew Carolan captured the mien of a subculture centered on midafternoon expressions of anger and community.

Turn any corner in New York City and you are bound to discover something you have never seen before. What started out as a curiosity one late night in 1981 in the East Village turned into an ongoing photographic exposé on a thriving subculture, 30-odd years later.

Utilizing what I learned from Richard Avedon while working on his seminal book, In The American West, for two years, I stood on the eastern end of Bleecker Street, where it empties into what was the most famous street for the downtrodden, disenfranchised and destitute — the Bowery. CBGB's was the perfect place for young outcasts, free thinkers and activists to gather under one roof — it was there that I intercepted patrons on their way to congregate and participate in a weekly ritual: the venue's all-ages, hardcore punk matinee. Dozens upon dozens of people, mostly teenagers, were photographed against a white piece of seamless paper.

As the project evolved, the setting remained the same. I would shoot for a couple of hours on the street and then pack up my stuff and head over to the club and witness a congregation of kids set free to express themselves however they decided. It was sheer joy, in the most juvenile way. Kids bouncing off each other like pinballs — moshing and skanking, working it all out. When the shows were over, they would grab pitchers of water off the bar to hydrate before hitting the street.

After processing and contacting the film, I would sit and look at the pictures and make choices of the ones that spoke to me. Those chosen were put up on the wall for further inspection. These two-dimensional photographs became little icons to me. They represented angst, freedom, sexuality and the coming of age, all wrapped into one.

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