Mods, Rudeboys and Punks | Janette Beckman’s Photos of British Subculture, 1970s-80s

British Culture Archive

Janette Beckman’s work has spanned more than five decades, a portrait and documentary photographer she captured the rise of punk in seventies London, as well as soundsystem culture, and the skinhead, ska and mod revival movements during the onset of Thatcher’s Britain. 

Growing up in North London, Janette was surrounded by art & culture from a young age. Enrolling on a course at Saint Martins, she initially had visions of becoming a portrait artist like David Hockney, though she never thought her drawings were good enough. Eventually she decided to study photography at The London College of Printing.

After leaving college she taught photography for a while before landing a job working for magazines Melody Maker and later The Face – photographing everyone from The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Siouxsie Sioux and The Specials.

The Sex Pistols Janette Beckman
The Sex Pistols, London, 1977. Photo © Janette Beckman.

It wasn’t just the bands – “I documented the whole scene – especially the fans. The fans were often just as an interesting subject matter as the bands themselves, they’d often end up fronting a band themselves a week or so later.”

This was the late seventies and although rebellious youth movements had come before, the punk scene was different, it changed everything. Janette was an observer and recognised the importance of the whole scene as a DIY act of rebellion, an important movement –  not just in music but also in fashion. It was two fingers towards the powers that be, and Janette’s photographs captured the zeitgeist and energy of these changing times. 

"Punk is an ‘irrepressible attitude.’ It brought an anti-establishment raw freshness to music, art and style. It was about change, the idea that people should question authority and do it for themselves.” Janette Beckman.

Punks In London
Punks in London, circa late 1970s/early 80s. Photo © Janette Beckman.

Janette has a relaxed approach to her work, whilst still getting very involved in her subjects. “The most important thing as a documentary and portrait photographer is people skills. It’s important to make your subject feel relaxed and comfortable to be able to photograph them as they are, rather than make them do something ridiculous that they would never normally do”.

Ladbroke Grove Sound System
Ladbroke Grove Sound System, 1980. Photo © Janette Beckman.

The Islington Twins

Janette’s first photo to appear in The Face was of Chuka & Dubem Okonkwo aka The Islington Twins. Always impeccably dressed in a mod/rudeboy style – the twins were well respected and known from hanging around ‘The Bar’ outside Highbury and Islington Station.

Ska

Janette first met them when she was still teaching, popping out one lunchtime to go to the pub, she caught sight of them both kitted out in their full matching ska uniform, and just had to take their picture. When she showed the photograph to Nick Logan of The Face a couple of years later he wanted them in the first issue, so she tracked them down again for an interview and another photoshoot.

The Islington Twins Janette Beckman
The Islington Twins. Photo © Janette Beckman.

New York

After moving to New York in 1982, Janette documented the rise of the Hip-Hop scene and graffiti culture, taking early press shots for Run DMC, NWA and LL Cool J to name a few.

Janette continues document youth culture from her base in New York, as well as working on various campaigns for well known brands.

Gallery

Punks in London, circa 1979.
Punks in London, circa 1979. Photo © Janette Beckman.
Shane MacGowan Janette Beckman
Boy, London 1970s. Photo © Janette Beckman.
Punk Girls in London
Punk Girls in Hyde Park, 1979. Photo © Janette Beckman.
Punks In Coventry
Coventry, circa 1980. Photo © Janette Beckman.
Sid Vicious Memorial
Sid Vicious Memorial, London, 1979. Photo © Janette Beckman.
Punk Girl London
Punk Girl, London, 1979. Photo © Janette Beckman.
London Punks Janette Beckman
Punks in London, 1979. Photo © Janette Beckman.
The Jam outdoor concert
Young Jam fans at an outdoor gig, 1979. Photo © Janette Beckman.
Mod Revival
Mod revival in Streatham, 1979. Photo © Janette Beckman.
Mod Revival London
Mod revival in Streatham, 1979. Photo © Janette Beckman.
Mod Revival Janette Beckman
Mod revival In Streatham, 1979. Photo © Janette Beckman.
Ska Girls Aylesbury 1980
Ska Girls. Taken outside Friars, Aylesbury, 1980. Photo © Janette Beckman.

All Images © Janette Beckman, all rights reserved. 

Keep up to date with Janette’s latest work via her website and Instagram page

You can purchase the books Janette Beckman Raw Punk Streets UK 1979-1982 and Mods & Rockers Raw Streets UK 1976–1982 from Café Royal Books.

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British Culture Archive is a non profit independent resource set up to document 20th century culture and social change in the UK. In 2022 we plan to open our permanent gallery and exhibition space where we can showcase our People’s Archive alongside exhibitions from our featured photographers. 

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