Electrifying Photographs of Underground Parties in 1980s Paris and New York

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Rebels and Dandies
Rebels and DandiesPhilippe Chancel, Rebels, Paris 1982. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Miranda

A new exhibition at Galerie Miranda in Paris brings together two brilliantly immersive series, by Philippe Chancel and Gary Green, documenting underground youth culture on both sides of the pond

The late 70s in Paris were a time of political and financial instability. The post-war boom was dwindling and, among young people, a nostalgia for the golden days of rock and roll took hold. The city’s teenagers formed rockabilly gangs à la Westside Story, quiffing their hair, donning bomber jackets and full skirts, and dancing the nights away to the sounds of 1950s America. 

In New York, meanwhile, a new underground music scene was flourishing against its own backdrop of social and economic turmoil. In nightclubs like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB, emerging punk acts such as Blondie, Television, and The Ramones drew crowds of artists, poets and pleasure seekers united in their quest for escapism and a decidedly cool, DIY aesthetic.

In both cities, the bold fashion, loud music and youthful sense of freedom each scene embodied spawned a multitude of fantastic photo opportunities – as evidenced in the work of Philippe Chancel and Gary Green, both young image-makers back then, based in Paris and New York respectively. This week, Rebels and Dandies, a new exhibition at Galerie Miranda in Paris, brings together an early series by each of the photographers, both of which bear witness to the effervescent subcultures bubbling up either side of the pond.

Chancel’s featured series, Rebels, sees the image-maker hone in on the vibrant nightlife of the Vikings and the Panthers, two allied street gangs composed largely of teenagers from immigrant families who were drawn to the liberation and social integration they felt post-war American culture represented. “Documenting The Rebels was the big event of my 20s,” Chancel tells AnOther. “I was interested in the margins of society, no doubt in a parallel quest for self-identity.”

Green meanwhile spent night after night in New York’s now-iconic music hotspots, turning his lens to the crowds, the stars (Andy Warhol, Patti Smith et al) and the decor, resulting in his evocative series When Midnight Comes Around. “I felt that what I was experiencing was on some level historic,” Green explains over email. “It was important to me that I somehow participate in this scene by making photographs that would become, I hoped, part of the archive of that time.”

Both say that they immersed themselves fully in their respective surroundings in order to gain the trust and acceptance required to shoot such intimate pictures. In each series, we find ourselves privy to passionate kissing, insouciant posing, candid conversations and joyful abandonment. “I spent long months by the gangs’ side, sharing their tensions and exhilaration,” Chancel says of his wonderfully up-close and unfiltered images. “This raw energy is what I sought to capture.”

“For me, the walls in CBGB’s and the empty stage were of equal importance as the sweat on Deborah Harry’s T-shirt during rehearsal, or the greasy wall in a portrait of an anonymous young woman sitting in a booth,” tells Green of his remarkable, “fly on the wall”-style documentation.

Seen together, both series act as a rousing homage to the spontaneity of youth, as well as the power of music to unify, uplift and unshackle during times of social and political turmoil.  

Rebels & Dandies is at Galerie Miranda, Paris from May 6 until June 26, 2021.