In My Eyes: Photographs 1982-1997
Thank God for the documentarians. When the American hardcore scene burst into prominence, the larger media was either uninterested, clueless, or held at arms’ length.
Luckily, the same spirit that inspired kids to form bands with no formal training also inspired waves of writers, photographers, and artists who might have lacked technical chops to channel their passion for their local scenes into art, leaving a vital document of this youth movement that contemporary mainstream media missed or distorted.
Chief among these was Jim Saah, who used his high school photography class training to become one of the D.C. scene’s main documentarians.
You’ve seen Saah’s work before, from the documentary Salad Days, to the cover of Fugazi’s Repeater, to dozens of other iconic images of the D.C. scene.
Those images and hundreds more are gathered in In My Eyes, Saah’s first book of photography, long overdue and quite a monster at over 300 pages.
Saah had an incredible knack for capturing and framing action. In a Black Flag photo, you can feel the energy as a kid grabs the monitor for dear life, a leather jacketed guy in ecstasy right behind him, as a stage diver is caught by the surging crowd. In another shot, the crowd grimaces, feeling the music as Henry Rollins falls to the crowd.
There are shots of singers upside down, sprawled on the ground, and jumping in glee. Shots of crowds roiling and moving, so evocative you can smell the sweat and leather and feel the humidity rising. Saah also has an ability to capture a band’s personality, from the drunken casualness of the Replacements to the intensity of Minor Threat.
While the photographs in In My Eyes evoke a nostalgia for a particular place and time, they also display a deep understanding of composition. Look at the triangles evoked with the shot of the Big Boys, or Marginal Man’s singer Steve Polcari leaping over the drum set.
In My Eyes is both an incredible document of a subgenre of popular music and a strong artistic and journalistic statement. Anyone interested in popular music or photography should pick this up.