Interview: Punk Photographer Ed Colver On Angels, Assholes and Anarchists (Plus Legendary Album Cover Outtakes)
For about five years, five nights a week, Edward Colver was there to see L.A.'s punk scene erupt through a small viewfinder, snapping photos with black and white Kodak Tri-X film, a 35mm camera with a 50mm lens and "no fucking auto-focus." Colver became an underground mainstay from 1978 through '83 and was allowed footage of the city's most notorious fallen angels, assholes and anarchists in moments of riotous fury and honest candor, standing a gaunt 6'4" in the front row or onstage at all the best shows in town. If you were at a concert during this era and Edward Colver wasn't there, it's been said, you were at the wrong concert.
In his collection of punk pictures are some of the movement's most memorable images. They've been referenced throughout the documentary American Hardcore and featured all over a who's-who list of record jackets--Black Flag, Fear, T.S.O.L., Circle Jerks, Bad Religion--piling high to 80 single and album covers in total.
Among his most recognizable photographs is the cover to Black Flag's 1981 LP, Damaged, which shows 20-year-old frontman Henry Rollins punching a mirror covered in blood. The shot was staged at a Hollywood house where he duct-taped the back of the mirror to keep its form and then smashed it with a hammer.
"I made the blood there," Colver recalled from his Highland Park home, "I brought red India ink and went scrounging around in the kitchen and found dish washing soap and instant coffee. I mixed it up right there and it looked perfect. It looked exactly like real blood."
By early 1984 Colver quit the scene and moved on professionally, working as a still photographer for I.R.S. Records among other freelance jobs, boasting he never had to solicit work and got it all through word of mouth.
`"I'd kind of done everything and I'd seen all the important bands a multitude of times and worked with all of them," he said. "And then actually all the thrash bands started up and it was like, 'You guys lost me, I'm out of here.'"
Beginning with an opening reception last Friday at the Hibbleton Gallery, Colver's "The Eye of the L.A. Punk Scene" exhibit will run through Jan. 2 and also feature some of his absurd and political assemblage sculptures.