PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Books

'Frame of Mind' Depicts Women in Punk Music, Unfiltered

With Frame of Mind, Antonia Tricarico takes her rock 'n' roll photography of women down into the mosh pit.

Frame of Mind: Punk Photos and Essays from Washington, DC, and Beyond, 1997-2017
Antonia Tricarico

Akashic Books

June 2019

Other

Under what conditions can we say that a photograph is feminist? Feminist politics is often conflated with simple femaleness, as if a woman's presence behind the camera or in front of the camera is the most obvious checkbox for ascertaining the photograph's argument. But the camera itself is an eye, and though it feels easy to slip into the notion that a woman doing the looking is necessarily feminist, this is not the case—perhaps especially when the subject of the photograph, the "thing" being looked at, is also a woman. So more important than the sex or gender identity of photographer or subject, we should examine how the photo itself gazes at its subject. What, then, is a feminist gaze?

To answer, I highly recommend the first book by Antonia Tricarico, Frame of Mind: Punk Photos and Essays from Washington, DC, and Beyond, 1997-2017. Yes, these photos are made by a woman, and yes, the subjects of these photos are mostly women. And yes, all the essays are written by women. And yes, this fine collection is published by Akashic Books under the delightful motto "reverse-gentrification of the literary world". But rock 'n' roll photography, like the rock music industry itself, has always relegated women to a ghetto in the corner well outside the mosh pit where all the real action takes place. As a result, the images we have from concerts tend to use a particular style—a way of looking that is blessedly barely in evidence in the gaze Tricarico showcases here.

She came from Italy and began taking photos at punk shows in Washington DC in 1997. Think about how you edgy female rock musicians were portrayed: how every photo froze Courtney Love's slip dresses the moment before really slipping to show us her breast and by extensive implication her sloppy character; how Shirley Manson's legs were spread so wide in her debut Calvin Klein ad that you might not even notice she's not wearing her trademark eye makeup; how Joan Jett had nothing to promote at that moment but still made splashy headlines just by dying her hair blonde. I loved those women and still do, but photographs of them from the late '90s can be hard to look at because who they are gets flattened out.

If the women depicted in Tricarico's photos are as "hot" as those in the sexy '90s photos, it has little to do with their physical appearance. Her photos showcase fierce women on stage doing their actual work. They sweat and make awkward faces and it's not always "pretty". You can see the wrinkles in their brows and the cellulite in their arms. You can see how their eyes glaze over when the groove is strong, or how their eyes focus on the drummer to cue in the bridge verse. You can see untied shoes and precariously coiled amp cables. You can see behind the scenes, their kids allowed to bang on instruments at home and their dinner tables cluttered with the random stuff of average life.

Kat Bjelland, Babes in Toyland, Black Cat / WCD, 2015 (courtesy of Akashic Books)

When a photo is offered as a candid document of a woman taking up space, without either highlighting the seductiveness of her body or elevating her to matronly sainthood, that's feminism. When a filthy and drippy lady on stage is shot from a low angle, the spotlights striking the edge of her instrument and surrounding her head in a halo—you know, just like the seven million photos you've seen of Springsteen—that's feminism. Putting photos of Alice Bag flipping the bird directly at the camera side by side with Fugazi staring at the floor is feminist. Putting photos of big, sparkly, seated Coup Sauvage side by side with the shirtless thrashers of Motorcycle Wars is feminist. Because where are the women who are gods of rock music? I've been asking this question since I was a kid. People—not just women —want to know: Who else out there is like us? And spare me your Tawny Kitaen.

I was embarrassed by how many of the bands in this book I didn't know. Tricarico's photography is compelling on its own, but it additionally propelled me to make a list of bands to check out. Just a sample: Cool Moms, Savage Boys and Girls Club, Quix*o*tic, Scaramouche, Divisionaries, Moats Definitely, Fire Party, and Uzeda. You can also find plenty of the usual suspect: L7, Fugazi, Deep Lust, Melvins, Lungfish, and Joan Jett. The photos are exciting by virtue of seeming very present, and Tricarico's decision to give some of these women a full page of their own to say something about their lives in rock 'n' roll is a necessary and priceless undertaking that adds tremendous value to Frame of Mind as a punk subcultural artifact.

Most of the women don't really talk about the photos themselves, but instead take the opportunity to focus on what it has meant to them to make space for their art within such a male-dominated sphere. Each write-up is followed by a chronological list of all the bands that woman has been in. Some only list one or two, either because their first band kind of hit it big or they're just getting started. But the majority of these band name lists—chock full of hilarious puns of course—are longish, a tiny yet emphatic portrait of how these women are slugging away, bloody but unbowed by the endless shuffle of personnel and shifting scenery.

In search of a community for herself, adrift in the unfamiliar language of America, Tricarico turned her eye toward the sounds where she felt most at home. In doing so, she captures not just a spirit of the times, but a spirit that is for all times. It's a punk thing to do, to show us that these bands may go down but the spirit of the underground carries on with each musician, nonetheless. And yes, a lot of the musicians are women.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.