04 / 09 / 2009
In the patio of hotel Pams, Stanley Greene arrives. With the charisma of a rock star, he greets the photographers standing there, gives a few phone calls, and sits for a rock and roll interview.
Regular visitors to Visa pour l'Image are well acquainted with Stanley's work; he is one of the most exhibited photographers in Perpignan. But if you thought you'd seen everything, you haven't. We may know his work on Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Darfur, but now he has got out the pictures from the period 1975 to 1985 - Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n'Roll. And what a discovery it is, going back over that very special time when we could do anything and everything. This step back into the past can help us understand how Stanley Greene has developed, reaching the type of reporting and stories he does today.
Born in Harlem, New York, Stanley Greene would travel through the US with his father (who had been an actor) and would take a lot of pictures. Although his father encouraged him to think of a career in acting, the young Stanley decided he wanted to become a painter. His parents gave him a camera when he was 10, which he used to photograph material for his paintings. When he was 12, they made a darkroom and taught him how to make a contact sheet. "For me, the photographic process was easy and magic." But it is at the age of 13, when his parents showed him a book of family pictures that he was taken aback by the power of photography: "I was taken by the images. Photography is about memory, psychology.. like music." In 1971, he met the famous photojournalist W. Eugene Smith, who advised him to study photography at the "School of Visual Arts" in New York, to get a grasp of the technical side of the medium, and later, to go to the "San Francisco Art Institute" where the focus was on aesthetics. It was in San Francisco that wild years really started for Stanley. "The school was open twenty-four hours a day. You walked in a friend's studio at night, and met friends. They'd be sitting there, with a beer or some cold pizza, talking about art. I found myself in an environment where you live, bleed, eat, screw and make art."
"San Francisco, 75. Flashback. The Western Front. No regrets", exhibited in caserne Galieni shows where Stanley comes from and the emergence of the punk movement. For years, he photographed the music scene (punk and rock bands), the Mutants, the Lewd, Flipper, the dead Kennedys. "My roommate was a drummer. Almost every morning, I ran into a semi-naked teenager trying to figure out the expresso machine." He became a rock photographer "by accident". He took pictures of all the bands coming through town: The Clash, Killing Joke, even Dylan. "It was one of the best, most raucous, and at the same time, most peaceful times of my life."
However, the scene became dark. Heroin users, most of his friends started to overdose. That's when Stanley decided to quit the scene. Later, he was on vacation in Berlin when the wall came down, and his images made the world's press, pushing him away from the music scene and fashion into conflicts and other international events.