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Centre for British Photography : Nothing to Lose : The Punk Photographs of Caroline Coon


Artist Caroline Coon is working with The Centre for British Photography to produce three boxed sets of her photographs entitled Nothing to Lose: The Punk photographs of Caroline Coon. The three sets are The Clash: A Relevant Rebellion; Punk: A Very Contemporary Significance; and Word and Image: Personal and Political Statements. There will be just 10 of each set available.

The sets reveal behind-the-scenes moments with some remarkable bands, with many of the images rescued and not been seen before. The Centre has been helping Coon to organise her archive and the idea for the box sets came from that. This selling exhibition at the Photography Sales Gallery is the very first time that Caroline Coon’s celebrated punk photographs have been editioned.

Caroline Coon was part of the early Punk scene and the author of one of the first books on Punk, 1988: The New Wave Punk Rock Explosion (1977). Her photographs are an important, intimate record of its heady early days.

As Coon says: “In the 1970s, as the optimism of Sixties ‘Peace and Love’ disintegrated into economic crisis, political failure and urban dilapidation, I wondered how disenchanted and alienated youth would react. Would the next generation be as angry as I was?

In 1976, I saw the Sex Pistols perform their second gig and immediately I recognised a galvanizing new expression of sub-cultural revolt. Urgently I upgraded the Kodak Instamatic I used for my painting to a Nikon F2 SLR. As the early days of the dramatic punk scene evolved – created by bands like the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned and The Slits – I photographed and interviewed musicians and fans.

The national press was critical and the music press didn’t want to know. The music critic of The Sunday Times pronounced punk “the latest musical garbage… Punk will fade… its apologists are ludicrous… when it dies it will not be mourned”. But I knew it was necessary to record what was happening. Having witnessed how the ‘hippy movement’ had been condemned in the media, and its youths imprisoned by the police, I thought that by suggesting young bands group together as a movement – the punk rock movement – there would be a modicum of safety in numbers.

I was in at the beginning. But even though most in the music business considered all things punk just a “fad”, ‘professional’ photographers soon took over, I went back to my painting.

It was not until the early 1990’s, when people began reconsidering and recognising the significance of punk, that there was a new demand for my photographs. Unfortunately, the darkroom where my films were developed had moved and many of my negatives were lost. The photographs in this exhibition, some from negatives and others restored and printed from scratched contact sheets, are a glimpse of what has survived from this revolution moment.”

Caroline Coon


A percentage of the sales will go towards supporting the work The Centre for British Photography does with grants, open calls, workshops and other public projects. There will be a display of the box sets and a small display of framed photos. Sets 1 and 2 will be split to allow collectors to get individual prints, the price for individual prints will be £650.  The full box set prices start from £5000.


Centre for British Photography
49 Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6LX

Centre Opening Hours
Wednesday to Friday: 11am – 6pm
Saturday and Sunday: 11am – 4pm

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