Worldwise: Punk Music Photographer Roberta Bayley’s Favorite Things

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Although she took one of The Rock’s most iconic photographs, Roberta Bailey insists she didn’t plan it.

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“They thought, ‘She’s just a girl at the door at the club – what’s the big deal? Bailey tells penta About the 1976 cover image of the first album of the Ramones’ name. “Shooting was for a punk magazine” [where Bayley was photo editor], The record company hired a professional photographer, and apparently the results were dire. They were desperate for a picture. That’s why he used me. I made US$125.”

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Decades later, that image is a highlight of “Punk Is Coming,” an exhibition of 50 photographers, filmmakers and artists that Bailey co-curated at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) Westport in Connecticut. “I made the decision to include all-female photographers, which quickly eliminated people who were on every other show I’ve curated,” says Belle, 72. I knew his work.”

With lensers like Sheila Rock and Pat Ivers, who documented the club culture of the 1970s-80s, the show spotlights actors across the gender spectrum, including Robert Mapplethorpe’s Patti Smith film. still going on and paintings by rocker David Johansson.

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Growing up in Marin County, north of San Francisco, Belle immersed herself in that city’s psych-rock scene before departing for New York City in 1974. “I used to take pictures of the Beatles from our TV screens at home,” she recalls. “A friend took me to see the Rolling Stones, and I realized you can actually take pictures of people yourself. That was my education.”

After a stay in London, where she briefly worked for Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren, Bailey returned to New York, “taking money at CBGB, the only club where punk bands could play,” she says. She also became a believable documentary of the intimate, ambiguous surroundings of the time. “There were about 25 people in the scene and in the band.
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We all knew each other. It worked in my favor, especially with the Ramones.”

While she mostly owns her camera these days, Bailey is the subject of regular gallery shows, where her prints sell for hundreds of dollars. “I also have a licensing deal in Japan. My rent is low. And I’m happy,” she says.

Bailey shares some of her favorite things penta,

My favorite of all my pictures is… My favorite is the one who makes the most money, as Andy [Warhol] Said clearly. So this is the image of the Ramones. But that picture is also the basis of my career. If I had never taken those pictures, it wouldn’t have happened.

The last trip I took was… For Berlin, where I spoke at the Ramones Museum in June of 2019. It is a small museum, but luxurious, and is run by a really smart guy. Everything is perfect, and each Ramone has his own room. It costs something like US$6 to get into, and it’s a lifetime membership.

The places I take visitors to New York are… [Italian stalwart]

Il Buco at 47 Bond Street, my favorite restaurant. It is only 8 blocks away. But before covid I didn’t have many visitors. I used to go to Cafe Orlin at St. Mark’s Place, but it closed before covid. when they opened [in 1981]No one had a cappuccino. This was before Starbucks.

My favorite camera is… Once things went digital, I never took a good picture. I’ve also invested in a digital camera with a viewfinder and it emulates a “real” camera. That was US$2,500, and I never used it.

That said, I love the Sony RX 100, but I don’t shoot that much anymore. It’s small, but it has a Zeiss lens, and it can shoot in really low light.

One place in New York that I miss is… Save the robot Milk bar. Kiwi Club. continental. This is when they had a real after hours club. I loved those little places. You realized that the floors are not finished and you are walking on cement. They were places where you felt a fight could break out at any moment.

The book I am reading right now is… Took me a while, but I just finished Paul Gorman’s
[biography] The Life and Times of Malcolm McLaren, It’s 800 pages, a great read, and very well researched. I met Malcolm in ’73. We knew each other. He was a really interesting person. There was a bit of craziness, especially towards the end.

My favorite Ramones song is… Blitzkrieg Bop,

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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