Photo-punk: 40 images from the birth of punk

Charlotte Pearson talks to a Brighton photographer about his latest exhibition.

Clash 1977 (01) Ian Dickson.jpg
Clash 1977 (01) Ian Dickson.jpg

Being in the right place at the right time is key for any photographer to be able to capture those unique moments.

Something that Ian Dickson agrees with as he says that his career has been a ‘series of fortunate accidents’ which has seen him photograph the likes of David Bowie, The Clash and Eric Clapton.

From spotting a camera in a shop window while on his lunch break his career has seen him capture images from a number of musical genres. A selection of his work will be on show at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery until March in the ‘Photo-punk: 40 images from the birth of punk’.

Fan(s) 1976 (03) c. Ian Dickson

“I think my first gigs I did were in 1976 and was either The Stranglers or the Sex Pistols,” reveals Ian.

“But punk didn’t really get started until 1977.”

The exhibition combines the work of Brighton-based Ian and Kevin Cummins from Manchester, showcasing their images capturing the new wave of bands from The Damned to The Clash, Buzzcocks and Siouxsie & the Banshees.

Raised in Clydebank, Scotland Ian’s career started in graphic design and it was while working for a sales brochure company in Sunderland that he found his muse.

Damned 1977 (13) Ian Dickson.jpg

“I walked past a camera shop and spotted a camera in the window for £15 so I bought it,” he explains.

“After a while I got sacked from that job for daydreaming, I just wasn’t 100 per cent interested in it any more but they were good about it.”

A self-taught photographer Ian met Chris Steele-Perkins who recommended him for a job at Tyneside Theatre Company where he took headshots and production photos.

“It was here I met Bob Brown in about 1972 who worked at the Newcastle City Hall which was the premiere venue for rock music at the time,” he explains.

Sex Pistols 1976 (1) Ian Dickson

“He kept asking me to work there but I kept saying no until I said yes and I started doing gig photography there.”

In 1973 he hitched a lift to London on Roxy Music’s tour bus, and although he says he doesn’t have a favourite artist to photograph he admits that he ‘really enjoyed touring with the band’.

“I worked in music photography in London,” reveals Ian.

“I worked for NME for a few years and then did a lot of my work with Sound magazine.

“There were a lot of late nights back then as it wasn’t digital so I was using film and would have to get back and process everything.”

Punk as we know it actually began in the early 1970s but remained an underground scene until 1976, when two bands – The Ramones and The Sex Pistols – made the outside world take notice.

“In my view punk was the last great youth movement that still reverberates today, which is why there is still so much interest in events that happened 40 years ago,” explains Ian.

“The time has really flown but the images themselves still seem so fresh, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with both those who were there and later generations.”

While the exhibition covers this period of music Ian’s career has captured a number of different genres.

In August, 1995, he was first recognised by the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’ with his Rod Stewart ‘pyjama portrait’, and in October, 2000, a book of his punk photographs called ‘Flash Bang Wallop!’ was published by Abstract.

“Punk was just one section of my career,” he explains.

“I have photographed so many genres from jazz to rock and everything in between.”

When asked if there was anyone he wishes he had photographed Ian explains how he wishes he had started earlier.

“I wish I had started in the 1960s,” reveals Ian. “Captured people like The Beatles or Elvis.

“The 60s were very much about pop and the 1970s I think was more about the birth of rock and roll, where you had visionaries like Bowie – you can’t get more iconic than David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

“It was a really exciting time for music and then in the late 70s there was punk, which was a really interesting movement.”

Ian adds that photographing in the ‘thick of it’ was definitely interesting.

“Sometimes you were lucky and got to be in the pit in between the stage and the crowd,” he says.

“But other times you would be in the crowd with all your equipment and you can just imagine what that would have been like back then.”

For fans of music, or punk in particular, this exhibition shines a fascinating light on the cultural movement in its first few years.

The exhibition ‘Photo-punk: 40 images from the birth of punk’ opens on November 22 and runs until March 5, 2017, at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. For more information, visit

Photo-punk preview and Q&A

With Ian Dickson and Kevin Cummins, hosted by Simon Price

21 November 2016, 6pm-8pm (£8, members £7), book in advance – includes FREE Photo-punk poster for October bookers*

An exclusive preview event for our Photo-punk display on punk’s early years, as captured by Kevin Cummins (NME) and Ian Dickson (Sounds). Be the first to view these esteemed rock photographers’ shots of bands including the Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Clash and Buzzcocks, and hear them talk to music journalist Simon Price about the 40-year anniversary of the UK punk phenomenon.

(*Free poster subject to availability)