Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra. Florentine gardens 9-6-1981
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IN THE PIT: behind the golden era of punk photography by Alison Braun

Photo: Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra. Florentine gardens 9-6-1981 / Alison Braun
Alison Braun started taking photos in Los Angeles at the advent of the 80s, documenting the local punk and hardcore scene and having her work published in Maximumrocknroll, Flipside and other punk zines of the time. Many a band she saw through the lenses of her camera, from local heroes Black Flag, Descendents, Circle Jerks, Bad Reliigion, Dickies, Fear, Social Distortion, Youth Brigade, Adolescents,… to international acts that would roll through the town (GBH, Exploited, Ramones, Dead Kennedys, Adicts, DOA, Bad Brains, Discharge, Misfits, SNFU,…), not to forget countless other “small” bands that populated SoCal underground scene in those years (Battalion Of Saints, Channel 3, Aggression, Decry, Wasted Youth, Dr. Know, 45 Grave, Bl´ast, Shattered Faith, Sin 34,…). Today, in conjcuntion with the new re-release of her book “In The Pit”, we’re giving a nod to her amazing work through a special first hand perspective of the “best of” ten years of her work.

Condensed into 86 pages packed with photos and relative gig flyers, the book is available at THIS LOCATION. The European edition comes in 21.5 x 28.5 cm format with hardcover plus dust jacket, thanks to Goodwill Records and No Plan Records. The first 100 copies are numbered and come with a book sized photo of one of the ten bands listed. The book costs 25 euros with the postage (cheaper for distributors) and can be ordered at www.goodwillrecords.net. The publishing date is January 20th, 2021.

𝐼𝑛 1976 𝐼 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑎𝑡 𝑎 𝐾𝐼𝑆𝑆 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑐𝑒𝑟𝑡 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑤𝑎𝑡𝑐ℎ𝑒𝑑 𝑎𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝ℎ𝑜𝑡𝑜𝑔𝑟𝑎𝑝ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑘𝑒𝑑 𝑖𝑛 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑛𝑡 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑔𝑒. 𝐼 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑡𝑒𝑛 𝑦𝑒𝑎𝑟𝑠 𝑜𝑙𝑑 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑛 𝐼 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑙𝑖𝑧𝑒𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝐼 𝑤𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑑𝑜 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑎𝑚𝑒. 𝑆ℎ𝑜𝑜𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑏𝑎𝑛𝑑𝑠 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑎 𝑔𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑡 𝑤𝑎𝑦 𝑡𝑜 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑏𝑢𝑡𝑒 𝑎𝑠 𝑎 𝑓𝑎𝑛 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑑𝑜𝑐𝑢𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡 𝑎𝑛 𝑒𝑚𝑒𝑟𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑚𝑢𝑠𝑖𝑐 𝑠𝑐𝑒𝑛𝑒 𝑤ℎ𝑖𝑐ℎ 𝑤𝑜𝑢𝑙𝑑 𝑏𝑒𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑒 𝑝𝑎𝑟𝑡 𝑜𝑓 ℎ𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑦.

In The Pit book

A story of live punk photography, by Alison Braun:

I grew up in Studio City, California. My father got me interested in photography and bought me my first camera. He was very accommodating and would often drop me off at shows before I could legally drive. Sometimes he would venture inside and saddle up to the bar, regaling people with his war stories.

The first show I photographed was Circle Jerks and Wasted Youth at the Whisky A Go Go, August 3rd ,198. I don’t remember the ticket price, but it was cheap. I was friends with the Circle Jerks drummer, Lucky Lehrer and was on the guest list. At the time we would hear about shows by either seeing a flyer at a record store or looking in the L.A. Weekly (newspaper) at the club listings.

I shot this show from 2 vantage points: One stage and from the balcony, which, was one of the best places for group shots.

Circle Jerks, Lucky Lehrer. Whisky 8-31-981

Circle Jerks, Lucky Lehrer. Whisky 8-31-981

My father helped me set up my own darkroom and for the most part I developed my own film. My early images turned out worse than expected and I continually changed my approach until I came up with a good way of shooting the show (with Flash). Flipside magazine was the first publication to use my work. It was a photo of Danny Spira of Wasted Youth from the first roll I ever shot. It was an unsolicited submission that set up a long relationship with the magazine. I also gave photos to bands for exchange for a spot on the guestlist.

Wasted Youth, Danny Spira. Whisky 8-3-1981 / first published photo

Wasted Youth, Danny Spira. Whisky 8-3-1981 / first published photo

At first, I shot every band on the bill even if I hated them, or never heard of them. I was aware of the historical significance of what I was capturing. Over the years that changed slightly because my hobby was getting expensive. Eventually people would hire me to go to shows and shoot their band.

Shows were easy to get in. I had a philosophy that as long I was shooting for free, I would not pay for a ticket. Goldenvoice Productions who promoted a lot of the larger shows were particularly gracious. They would always provide me with a photo pass. Other shows, I would sneak into and find a band I knew and get a pass that way. The trick was to be both enterprising and invisible at the same time.

𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑚𝑜𝑠𝑡 𝑐ℎ𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑛𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑠ℎ𝑜𝑤 𝐼 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟 𝑠ℎ𝑜𝑡 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝐷𝑒𝑎𝑑 𝐾𝑒𝑛𝑛𝑒𝑑𝑦𝑠 𝑎𝑡 𝐹𝑙𝑜𝑟𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑒 𝐺𝑎𝑟𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑠.

On September 6th, 1981, the audience rushed the stage, forcing me to climb up onto the monitors. Eventually the monitors were shaking so I gave up and went into the audience to shoot, which was not much better.

Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra. Florentine gardens 9-6-1981

Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra. Florentine gardens 9-6-1981

𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑜𝑛𝑙𝑦 𝑢𝑛𝑓𝑟𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑙𝑦 𝑏𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝐼 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟 𝑠ℎ𝑜𝑡 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝐵𝑙𝑎𝑐𝑘 𝐹𝑙𝑎𝑔.

They had one roadie who was particularly hostile to me and would try to rough me up whenever he saw me with my camera. I never understood what he found so threatening about a 16- year-old. As a result, I have very few images of the band.

There are a few shows that stand out as memorable for me, both as a fan and as an artist:

  • Dead Kennedys Florentine Gardens. September 6, 1981 – Intense Audience
  • Dead Kennedys, Whisky July 4,1982 – Great venue
  • Discharge Florentine Gardens October 2, 1982 – First time I ever saw Discharge and was blown away. And the Misfits opened.
Misfits, Glen Danzig. Goleta Community Center 1-21-1983

Misfits, Glen Danzig. Goleta Community Center 1-21-1983

Aside from the hostile roadie for Black Flag, I felt welcome most everywhere I went. The one time some simian tried to grab my teenage ass while I was onstage taking pictures, the bouncer next to me grabbed him by his shirt and tossed him out the back door using the poor guy’s body to open the door.

The only time I got hurt was at a Butthole Surfers show. Someone dove off the stage and ripped the flash off the hot shoe of my camera, and knocked me out cold. Some people dragged me to the back of the venue and propped me up against the wall with all my gear next to me.

After shooting over 200 bands, I can say my experiences have been positive. Honestly, most problems at shows were caused by the police not the fans.

I was still in high school when I was nationally published. I have shot over 200 bands and have amassed a large collection of images.

In The Pit book

Film photography is for the most part now extinct. I am currently scanning my archive and making it available for future fans to discover. I have compiled some of my favorite images into a portfolio book.

I moved to Seattle in 1990. I was 24 years old, out of college and it was time to move out of my parent’s house.

I had friends in Seattle, and it was the right time to start my life as a grown up. I am mostly retired from taking photos around 1994….that is unless some old friends tour through town. In that event, I’ll dust off the old kit and show up.

In The Pit book

IN THE PIT: behind the golden era of punk photography by Alison Braun
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