Stanley Greene was born in New York in 1949. He took his first photo when he was 11, and 20 years later he began working at the studio of legendary documentary photographer William Eugene Smith. During the early days Greene took pictures of his friends, many of whom became famous musicians. From 1975 to 1985, he took pictures of The Mutants, Yanks, The Ramones, Metallica, Dean Kennedys, Red Hot Chili Peppers and plenty of others. In the mid-1980s, Greene moved to Paris to take up fashion photography but became famous as a photojournalist. He began with covering the fall of the Berlin Wall and then continued his career covering events in hot spots.
The exhibition, Furious Beauty: The Life and Times of Stanley Greene, features two series of his early works. The first one is dedicated to the punk movement in San Francisco in the 1970s-1980s, and the second includes fashion photographs from Greene’s Paris period.
“It was important for us to show Greene’s style, how he developed as a photojournalist, so we picked his early works. I think that his method of deeply immersing himself into the subject he was concentrating on was formed in the 1970s-1980s. Each series is a story about what he studied well from the inside, be it the world of fashion, music, a military conflict or a natural disaster,” exhibition curator Anna Shpakova said.
Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys performs California Über Alles, Mabuhay Gardens, North Beach, San Francisco, 1978.
Greene got his art education at the School of Visual Arts in New York and the San Francisco Art Institute. He studied art together with young artists, musicians and activists. He later recalled that period of time when he was surrounded by rock bands, punks and artists and even sharing rooms with them. “And then at night I was going to photograph the punk scene with a leica camera, I mean: unheard of! Blasphemy!” he wrote.
Stanley Greene always photographed what he knew and what he was inspired by. When looking at his photos we see ourselves in the thick of the events, in the whirlpool of clubs, concerts, people and new styles of music. The photo from the Dead Kennedys concert was taken in 1978. When describing the photo, Greene quoted a journalist from The San Francisco Examiner who said that the Dead Kennedys understood the spirit of the times. Their fans liked them because of their way of protesting through dissoluteness and blatant immorality.
Greene often received phone calls from his musician friends asking him to send them photos he’d taken at concerts to use in publications. Soon magazines and newspapers began asking Greene for his pictures too, and he later became a correspondent at the Punk Globe.
Ginger Coyote, editor and publisher of Punk Globe Magazine at On Broadway, San Francisco, 1984.
Ginger Coyote, the founder and editor of the Punk Globe, was an outstanding person and one of the first promoters of the punk rock movement. In the 1970s, punk rock was at its dawn. Coyote took this movement seriously and supported musicians by publishing stories about them.
As Greene recalled later, Ginger made an unforgettable impression on everyone who met her, she was the real star of the Western Front (this is how the punk scene was called in San Francisco). Later, in 1989, Ginger became a punk musician herself and jointed the White Trash Debutants.
North Beach, San Francisco, 1980.
Green also took pictures of everything that surrounded punk rock. North Beach in the 1980s was the centre of club life in San Francisco. These eccentric young women on the photo are typical representatives of the punk rock public.
The picture conveys the atmosphere of that time and place. People seeing this feel as if they had just met these girls on their way to the club.
Meredite being made up. France, Paris, 1988.
Under the impression of films about fashion photography, in particular “Blow-Up”, a mystery thriller film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, Greene decided to take up fashion photography. Paris was the best place for that, so Greene moved there in 1986 after spending ten years photographing the punk rock scene in San Francisco.
Once on a Paris street he met Meredite, a young woman he knew from the US. She became a model in France. Greene began taking pictures of her and his works were published by important magazines.
Greene said that he never considered himself a great fashion photographer. He thought all that he could do was to notice interesting details. The period of glamour photography was the most fruitful, but short lived. In 1989, Greene moved to Berlin where his career took a major steep turn.
Very personal protest
I stood in a crowd that was yelling that they wanted to be part of a free world and saw that the camera is a very powerful instrument: this is how Stanley Greene recalled his impressions of the fall of the Berlin Wall. His photo featuring a girl dressed in a ballet skirt and holding a bottle of champagne, celebrating as the Berlin Wall began to come down, became a symbol of the fall. Greene was captivated by photojournalism. He covered military conflicts, natural disasters and their aftermath in such countries as Chechnya, Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. In October 1993, he became the only Western journalist to visit the White House (the Russian Government building) during the constitutional crisis in Russia. According to Greene, covering conflicts was his very personal form of protesting.
Stanley Greene was awarded the world’s most prestigious World Press Photo award four times: for a report from the Russian White House in 1994, for covering events in Chechnya in 2001 and 2004, and for a series of works from Sudan in 2008.
Stanley Greene died in May 2017. He would have been 70 on 14 February 2019