An Interview with Glen E. Friedman

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All photos credited to, and courtesy of Glen E. Friedman

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing the one and only Glen E. Friedman to discuss, among other things, what he’s been up to during the lockdown, his entry into the Punk, Skate and Hip-Hope scenes, his early days as a photographer, some of his proudest moments, favorite records and a whole lot more.

I would like to give a special thanks to Glen for not only donating his time to work on this interview with us but also for giving us access to some of his favorite photos which illustrate his highly influential career.

Lastly, if you would like to learn more about Glen E. Friedman’s life and work, you can head over to his website and check it out. Once you’ve done that, check out this interview with Glen. Cheers.

Andrew:
Glen, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough. How are you holding up?

Glen:
I’ve had some projects to keep me busy, as well as a kid and personal stuff to distract me, but admittedly living in New York City with no personal outdoor space has been tough. No TV news of any kind, minimal online crap, quit FaceBook, only look at Twitter (the real cesspool) when I get sent a link, just do what I always do as much as possible and work and hope for the best.

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway? We know you love Punk. What spawned the interest?

Glen:
My interest in Punk came from my interest in loud exciting music. Before punk, it was Nugent, Zepplin, Hendrix, and Aerosmith. Like most kids my age, I grew up first with the Beatles and then all the incredible rock of the 1970s. But in my later teens punk started to emerge and it was my thing. Ramones, Damned, Buzzcocks, Pistols, all loud aggressive, and obnoxious, what’s not to like?

Andrew:
As a photographer, who are some of your influences?

Glen:
National Geographic and Sports Illustrated were my biggest influences. Learned a few things from C.R. Stecyk III and Warren Bolster as well.

Andrew:
When you were younger, you were heavily involved in skateboarding culture. How much of an influence did that scene have on you as you moved forward in your career as a photographer? There’s a lot of carry-over between the skateboarding and Punk scenes, right? What are your thoughts on their sort of parallel histories?

Glen:
I never thought of photography as my career, it was just something I did that I was able to make a living off of somehow. But Making pictures of skateboarding certainly helped me learn the decisive moment and compositions importance, shooting live shows was only hard ‘cause it was usually so dark it was difficult to focus through the lens. But it’s all about attitude, character, and composition. Make things look good, make people look cool, make things look exciting, and make things look beautiful in their own way.

All photos credited to, and courtesy of Glen E. Friedman

Andrew:
What were your goals when you began working as a photographer and how have they evolved as you’ve gone along?

Glen:
Kind of just answered that. But I can add, to tell the story of the day in a fraction of a second, do it with style and intensity, make art not just a fucking “capture” as idiots say these days…

Andrew:
Early in your career, you were the youngest staff member at SkateBoarder, right? Tell us how you became involved with the magazine. What led to move from that toward photographing Punk Rock shows?

Glen:
I lived on the west side of Los Angeles and I was getting the goods as a kid so they had to print it, there was no denying it, although tons of great stuff didn’t get printed (evidence in all my books) I had a skaters perspective since i was one, a younger persons view because I was one, it showed in the work, the timing too added to all the other stuff I said above, and that was easy to transfer over to Punk shows where my interest was growing as it was developing. I grew up as skateboarding did and same for Puck, we were kinda there when they were just “getting their legs” so to speak.

Andrew:
Black Flag, Minor Threat, and Adolescents received some of their very first media attention through your work. It must be very gratifying to know you’ve played a major hand in giving these now transcendent bands some of their earliest exposure. In a way, your images have truly shaped Punk Rock. Without them, our view on the early days of the genre may be completely different. What are your thoughts on that?

Glen:
Well I was inspired by those bands tremendously and my goal was to spread that and inspire others, so I am stoked if my work did what I set out to do with it, and in fact proud of it, some validation for the dedication I had towards gaining my subjects exposure.

All photos credited to, and courtesy of Glen E. Friedman

Andrew:
Aside from your work within the arena of Punk, you’ve also played a huge role in the living history of Rap and Hip-Hop, having photographed the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Iced-T, and Run-DMC in their earliest days. How did you become involved in that scene?

Glen:
Hip-Hop was just and extension of my love of music, particularly underground music culture, and what I saw at the time as Black kids version of Punk. My love of Hip-Hop and the groups paralleled that of Punk so it was just a natural progression, similar to how I went from Skating and then as Punk came along and I got inspired by that I started working with it, Hip-Hop was the natural progression after Punk, the only big difference being that HipHop became hugely successful and popular eventually in the mainstream.

Andrew:
Switching gears a bit. You’ve always been very vocal and steadfast in your political beliefs, which is more than commendable. Do you feel there is a through-line within your work in that regard? How have you used your role as a photographer/journalist to educate the public and make a true difference there?

Glen:
My work is my politics and my work is my life. Anyone who does not get that does not get my work, and that’s a bit disappointing. My work speaks for itself via the subjects and the compositions I create to excite and inspire people. When I do interviews, particularly live ones I am very open and opinionated and am happy to share my ideas as much as I can to inspire a more just world that cares for others and the environment of the entire planet. Lot’s to share and always willing when the audience is authentic and listening.

Andrew:
More on that subject. In 2004, you created the “Liberty Street Protest.” Tell us more about the origins of that and your ongoing goals there.

Glen:
That’s a really long story I think if people go to this web page they can check it out, One of my proudest achievements for sure.

http://burningflags.com/news/news-1/

All photos credited to, and courtesy of Glen E. Friedman

Andrew:
I believe you’ve published 8 booked so far, right? Tell us your experience in that regard. Do you enjoy compiling your work and having it published in this way?

Glen:
I love making books, they are tomes of sharing and presentation that I can control. They are great puzzles with way many more pieces besides the pages and the covers that most people have no idea about, and putting them together is a passion for me. I think each one has got something valid and it’s just great to be able to share the images and stories that inspire and excite people.

Andrew:
Looking back, what are some of your favorite moments doing what you do? Any special shows or particular meetings with artists that stand out the most?

Glen:
Honestly that’s too broad of a question, there’s been so many incredible moments and people and lots of lame moments too, and kooks you gotta deal with. But obviously working with people that inspire you is usually fulfilling and particularly if you can help them out and share their inspiration even more widely. Look at my books and the answers should be pretty obvious in those.

Andrew:
As a photographer, the ability to get out and go to shows and events is a huge part of what you do, but as we know, COVID disallowed it for some time. What do you miss most about live shows (if you’re still into them)?

Glen:
I miss just being in the streets with people too numerous to count, every day, and now I can count the number of people I see on a block, on one hand, New York City is a ghost town compared to its usual hustle and I gotta say, without the people here it sucks. I love the city, been my home most of my life, but right now is a low point for sure. I don’t go out to see live music that much, but just the idea that it was there is always nice. Sucks for people who live for it as I used to when I was younger. Just all social activities curtailed sucks, but it’s a motherfucking pandemic, so people gotta deal.

All photos credited to, and courtesy of Glen E. Friedman

Andrew:
You’ve been at it a long time, and you’ve taken so many amazing photos of artists in action. What is it that you love about capturing this living history the most?

I frame it, I don’t just capture it! I love inspiring other people with my perspective of what’s going on in front of my eyes and showing them how I see it to get them stoked and to keep me stoked after the fact.

Andrew:
Some of your photos are direct representations of how we will remember these artists forever. How gratifying is it to know that you’ve contributed to the zeitgeist so to speak? Is there a direct through-line that overarches your work, or does each piece stand alone?

Glen:
Well, I saw it as responsibility and as vital to my own existence, so to be able to comprehend and witness that it has (if not immediately at least eventually) continued to inspire people, and also myself, is very gratifying for sure. The overarching line is integrity, art, composition, truth and justice to the subjects, if not outright glorification of them.

Andrew:
Are you into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music?

I am into all forms, when the packages are great I like to have the original formats, even in my digital files I try to collect all the original artwork for my iTunes library. I rarely listen to online services, I don’t like the subscription model at all. I get music from my friends or from my own CDs that I buy or get given to me as gifts, when it’s a loose song here and there I just grab it from a friend or the web, just as I would record off the radio when I was a kid in the 70s and 80s when someone makes an LP or a single worth buying I gladly buy it. I refuse to buy mp3’s of music I already bought in another format, especially if its use is limited to not share, I’d NEVER do that.

All photos credited to, and courtesy of Glen E. Friedman

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most you, and why?

Glen:
Most of these are great from the 1st song to the last, that’s a big part of why they are listed…otherwise, I would have way more, but these are all dense greatness through and through.

-Buzzcocks, Another Music In A Different Kitchen was the 1st imported LP I ever bought and remains one of my all-time favorites.

-Black Flag Damaged is usually my favorite all time LP.

-Public Enemy It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is easily the greatest Hip-Hop LP of all time and I did all the photography. Ditto for their 1st LP Yo, Bum Rush the Show.

-The Damned 1st LP is also a favorite.

-Double Live Gonzo by Ted Nugent was my favorite as a teenager, even though Ted turned out to be such a horrible piece of shit, I can’t make-believe that we didn’t live for that double LP.

-The Beatles, Abbey Road, and Sgt. Pepper were two of the earliest LPs I owned as a pre-teen and I love them to this day.

-Suicidal Tendencies debut LP means a lot because it’s the first and only LP I ever produced, not only the music but the cover concept and photos and it’s pretty damn great for what it is.

-Dead Kennedy’s Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables can’t be denied as über important.

-Beastie Boys Check Your Head is a pretty phenomenal example of creativity that is totally enjoyable from front to back, not to mention my cover shot.

-The Ramones It’s Alive, Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks, The Stooges all opened new doors for me.

-All Fugazi LPs but surprisingly perhaps in particular the Instrument soundtrack.

-Fela Kuti Expensive Shit was my 1st Fela LP, It was a gift on my 40th birthday.

There are also lot’s of singles and EP’s but you asked for albums…

Andrew:
Who are some of your favorite artists? Ones that mean the most to you.

Glen:
Fugazi, Fela Kuti, Rakim (w/ Eric B.), The Sonics, Black Flag, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Stooges, Minor Threat, Run-DMC, Buzzcocks, Public Enemy, Sly and the Family Stone, Wu-Tang Clan, Stone Roses, Boogie Down Productions, The Evens, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, MinuteMen, AC/DC, Cramps, Germs, Nine Inch Nails, Bark Market, Headcoateees, The Specials, Bad Brains, X-Clan, DEVO, James Brown, Ramones, Trouble Funk, Make-Up, Dead Prez, there’s a few. . .

Andrew:
Last question. What advice would you have for young artists just starting out? How do they stay afloat in a world that seems to be so abhorrent to creatives?

Glen:
Cut out the bullshit and the bullshitters, don’t spend frivolously, be a responsible thinking human, treat people as you would like to be treated, be fair, work hard, don’t pretend. Your integrity is all you really own, so figure that out and work on that. Do what is vital to you and hold on tight, it’s gonna be an incredible journey and I hope you survive…

All photos credited to, and courtesy of Glen E. Friedman


Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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