Carbon 2014 Festival Speaker – Janette Beckman

With speakers like Janette Beckman, Mike OMeally and Richard Kern, Carbon 2014, the style, culture and design conference in Melbourne this week looks pretty epic. Beckman is a British photographer who’s shot numerous characters from the Sex Pistols to East LA street gangs to UB40.

Do you remember when you first got a Wikipedia page?
I think I got it 3 years ago – not sure really.

Do you ever wonder who initially created it?
Not really – happy to have it.

What was King Alfred School like? It’s described as a place “where the emphasis, both academically and socially, is on discovering and maximising the potential of each child.”
I was at KAS from the age of 4 – 17 . I guess it shaped my early years, there was a lot of emphaisis on thinking for yourself and being an individual – I spent a lot of time in the art room which in retrospect probably made me the person I am today

What was your first camera?
My first camera was an Instamatic when I was a kid. My first ‘real camera’ was a YashicaMat 6X6 medium format.

Where is it now?
I dropped it and it broke sometime in the late ’70s.

How has London changed since the ’70s?
London has changed a lot – all the traditional pubs are ‘gastro’ pubs. It’s hard to find a good fish ‘n’ chip shop. It was more grimy and poor.

Whose art scene has changed more, London or New York?
I think the NY art scene has changed enormously. I was living on Avenue B during the ’80s when there were all these great little galleries showing street and graffiti art. Rents were low they could afford to show unknown new artists and it was a very exciting art scene. People bought art because they loved it.

Now the art scene seems to have been taken over and controlled by Wall Street bankers who buy art as an investment – falsely elevating prices – and making celebrity superstars. The art almost seems unimportant.

Can you tell us about your upcoming show at HVW8 Gallery?
I am showing a series of documentary portraits I shot of the Hoyo Maravilla gang in East LA back in 1983. They have not been exhibited before. And also some of my ‘classics’ from the punk and hip hop era.

Tyler said that you reconnected with three of the girls you photographed back in the ’80s and that most of them are pretty successful. What was that like?
Last summer I reconnected with 3 of the girls who were in one of my photos from the East LA series. It was amazing to meet them and see where their lives have taken them. They are still best friends and have survived so much: husbands shot and killed, kids in jail, friends in jail or dead, and yet they are 3 of the most positive success stories I have come across – smart beautiful women

What are the main topics that you hope to communicate at Carbon?
At Carbon I intend to talk about fascination with documenting rebels and misfits – everyone from punks, rappers, to illegal Brooklyn girl fights and Harlem bike gangs.

Why is Carbon important?
Carbon celebrates Style, Culture and Design – these things.

Carbon begins Thursday, March 27. More details here.



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