I’m feeling horribly sad. Pain welling up. Like having the crusty brown crackling scab of a deep wound ripped from my flesh. Feeling the pain and discomfort, but realizing, I was only feeling a pea under the mattress of time, poking me in my minds eye. Hey you! Wake up! Wake the fuck up! Joe is gone. Joe? Joe who? Joe Streno? No! Joe Strummer.
I’m back stage at Bonds, NYC. It’s 1981. I’m seeing it though the eyes of another. Out of body? Am I still dreaming? I am the camera. I’m on one side of the curtain divider, tagged by others before me. He’s on the other side. They … are on the other side. Dorothy is next to me. “I’ll pull it back …” she said “… be ready.” Was I? Could I? Should I? Suddenly the curtain is drawn. He turns, looking into my eyes, dead on. There is a blinding flash. He doesn’t blink. He knows what is needed. He knows what is required. Focused like a laser. Peering into the elements of time, space and visual acuity. His essence has been received. His likeness captured. In a microsecond, the curtain returns to its place. Both of them. Light levels return to normal. Did that really happen?
Just got finished watching the Strummer bio pic “The Future is Unwritten”. What an incredibly cogent shard of film making. Not too shabby for a rock-doc. Ingeniously conceived and artistically executed. But I’m not here to play critic. I’m here to talk about a fragment of an image from the film that brought me back to “that night backstage at Bonds”. I’m here to talk about the image you see above.
There’s a scene in the movie where Strummer is being followed by the camera in the backstage dressing room at Bonds. Joe is moving quickly towards the only window in the place at the far end of the room. As the camera follows him, he is walking past a coat rack that has been hung with a white curtain. But the curtain is no longer white. It’s been tagged by the same person who has tagged the entire dressing room in red and green. The curtain, come divider, was used for a little privacy, if one can have privacy in a dressing room filled with people. In that hand held tracking shot of Joe (screen capture above) I was hurled back to the night, in 1981, I was standing behind that very curtain, trying to avoid the crush of press there to photograph “da boyz”.
My then girlfriend Dorothy saw I wasn’t having the best of luck trying to muscle my way into that little nook where Joe, Mick and Paul were being photographed by the press. She stood on one side of the curtain divider and called me over. “Streno! Come here! I’ll pull the curtain back and you be ready to take the picture”. And so it happened. I knew I only had one chance to take one image. Had no idea if Joe would even look my way. Dorothy pulled back the curtain. One of us called to Joe. He turned, looked straight into my lens, I focused, framed, and pop, the photo was taken. As soon as it was done, I thanked him, and Joe pulled back the curtain and went about his business on the other side. Beyond the gorilla photo tactics needed to take the photo, there was an element of fortuitous serendipity. One of the photographers was using a flash with a slave unit. When my flash fired, so did his. Not only did it create a wonderful “star burst” of light to the left of Joe’s face, it also did back-lighting for me, making Joe just pop out of the picture, as well as throw frontal lighting on both Mick & Paul. It truly was a photograph of a lifetime. Here in lies my dilemma.
Since I started blogging, and especially since I started posting my photos to let the rest of the world see my work, I’ve realized there are a some people out there that have no scruples. The “morally bankrupt” …if you will. A posted image or story, to them, means a free, “… I can take this without permission because this dude posted it on his blog” kind of attitude. As with my other Clash @ Asbury photos, I know by looking at my “blog logs” that all of those photos were downloaded by two different people. Even though there are copyright warnings all over my blog, these people stole my photos outright without even a request. Now I’m afraid they are going to turn up someplace else I have not authorized. So this is why I am hesitating to publish the rest of my Clash photos to my blog. I don’t want to have to resort to putting up shitty quality photos, or watermarked photos, that just ruins the quality of what people will see and experience. Especially “that” image of Joe. It’s never been published in any form. Yes some of my other Bonds photos were published in London and NYC … but not this one. This is the photo that got me guest listed to all the shows in Asbury.
I met Kosmo Vinyl in NYC at Electric Lady Studios while the Clash were recording Combat Rock. I brought my portfolio to show him all my Bonds and Palladium photos. The Strummer pict I had enlarged to 11 x 14 and was the centerpiece of the photos, as well as the “NG” photo of Paul. Joe was also at Electric Lady that day. He popped out of the mixing room for a moment. At which point Kosmo called to Joe. Kosmo holds up my open portfolio and shows Joe “the” photo. Joe smiles and says, “Who’s that ugly git?” Smiles again salutes … and walks back into the mixing room. Kosmo and I both laugh … and our meeting came to an end soon after. But I digress ….
What is a soul to do? I have done one thing, I’ve made it so the photos can no longer be downloaded though the image thumbnail links. But that still doesn’t mean that if a person wants to ‘nick ‘em’ they will find a way.
I also want to thank those of you who have come to my blog to enjoy the photos and my stories while honoring my wishes. I want to thank all of you who have also left comments, especially those of you who had been to any of these shows. Thanks for your support. Thanks for your honesty and integrity.
Now. What to do? What to do?
What do you all think? Let me know in the comments.