In the new documentary series Icon: Through The Lens, PBS turns the camera around and focuses on the history and impact of music photographers. The upcoming second episode, “On The Road” set to air July 23rd at 9 p.m. ET, examines the legacy of live concert photography. In a new clip premiered by Brooklyn Vegan, veteran shutterbug David Godlis remembers cutting his teeth at New York’s legendary CBGB in the early days of the ’70s punk movement.
First opened in 1973, CBGB became a breeding ground for the emerging punk movement that would swell out of New York in the early 1970s. From the Ramones and Elvis Costello to Blondie and Talking Heads, all the major players of the emerging punk/new wave scene came through the doors of 315 Bowery in Manhattan’s East Village. It was around that time that a young David Godlis embarked on a semi-professional photography career, using CBGBs as an almost rent-free studio.
“I’d tell people, ‘I’m going down to see this band,’ and they’d come walking by [CBGBs] with me, and they’d say ‘you’re going in there?’ And I’d say, ‘yeah, I’m going in there,'” Godlis recalls in a teaser of the upcoming episode. “People would go ‘oh, I can’t believe you’re wasting your time photographing music,’ and I’d go ‘it’s kind of a scene, there’s a scene going on there besides music. It looks interesting to me, I’d shoot it a certain way.’ I’d play them a song by the Ramones and they’d go like, ‘oh my god, you’re shooting bad bands!'”
One of Godlis’ earliest muses was the Ramones, whom he photographed almost every night. In those early days, the punk pioneers played two sets a night, four nights a week, so Godlis got plenty of practice. It was also through this nightly exposure to the group that the photographer learned the band’s choreography and the timing of their movements so as to get the best possible shot. The teaser also examines Godlis’ adoption of Brassaï‘s technique of shooting nighttime photos without a flash, which the budding punker used to create iconic band portraits.
Watch David Godlis relive his early days at CBGBs in the clip below. Episode two of Icon: Through The Lens airs on PBS on Friday at 9 p.m. ET. The episode also explores the stories of early trailblazing photographers who went on the road with bands like Led Zeppelin, The Who, David Bowie, and The Rolling Stones, as well as photographers’ relationships with artists like Courtney Barnett, Metallica, Oasis, U2, and more.
ICON: MUSIC THROUGH THE LENS | Punk Rock Photography at CBGB | Episode Two | PBS
[H/T Brooklyn Vegan]