Lifestyle & Belief

With attitude: Images of women in punk, then and now

This story is a part of

Across Women's Lives

This story is a part of

Across Women's Lives

Visible Girls-25.jpg

Credit:

Anita Corbin

They say if you remember the '60s, you weren't really there.  

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Remembering the '70s and '80s is a bit different: Maybe there are scars in noses, from where those safety pins used to be.

For punks back then, there's an attitude. Because punks had to have major attitude to spike their hair with flourescent dyes while wearing high-heeled Doc Martens. 

But onetime punks probably still are partial to music like this tune by X-Ray Spex.

Anita Corbin photographed the punk scene in London in the 1970s and '80s; specifically the young women of punk.

Corbin was 18 in 1977 and she was part of the scene. She was, as she put it, "a soft punk."

"I didn't have the piercings, but I did have the bright pink hair and the bright green hair."

As a young photographer, the whole scene was like eye candy. 

"I wanted to celebrate what we as young women were doing," Corbin says, "and how punk really had given us an opportunity to be different, wear different types of clothes and not have to stay to the mainstream look of fashion."

Women in Punk, Nicola and Carol
Credit:

Anita Corbin

Often, Anita Corbin's studio was the ladies room in many of the music clubs around London. It provided peace and quiet and a chance to get away from the boys. 

You'll also notice that the photos are "double portraits." Corbin did that intentionally. Some of the girls are sisters, friends or lovers. 

"The power of [these portraits] has lived on [for] 35 years. [There] is a relationship between the girls in the picture, but also the third person — me as a photographer."

Women in punk, Simeon and Simeon
Credit:

Anita Corbin

When most people think of punk, it's the guys who come to mind. 

Yeah, there was Sid Vicious and Johnny Lydon. And the fans were mostly made up of men. 

But Anita Corbin's photographs remind us that women were a part of the punk scene, too. Her point? "Yes, we are here, despite maybe not being noticed all the time." 

Women in punk, Laura and Janet
Credit:

Anita Corbin

Recently, some of the women Corbin photographed got together for a reunion of sorts. They met outside a gallery where these photos are on view.

Corbin says when some of these women look back at pictures of themselves, they have told her, "I look really grumpy in that picture." 

Now, nearly 35 years later, look at the photo below. All the women are smiling. 

Corbin admits a certain mellowing, but adds that the attitude is still there. It's just, as she puts it, a slightly "lighter attitude." 

The women in punk in 2016

The women in punk, in 2016

Credit:

Steve MacLeod