Lilian Caruana, Exotic “tribe”
These photographs of the punks and skinheads of New York’s East Village were made between 1984-1987. There is, in most people, an inclination to be put off by the outrageous styles and symbol’s that characterize this subculture’s rebellion, and for that reason I chose to photograph them in a series of intimate portraits, which were taken in their homes and on the streets where some of them lived as well as in the clubs where they performed their music.
They were a nomadic group, hard to keep track of, living in vans, in abandoned buildings, sharing apartments or living in the outer boroughs, but although they were constantly shifting their residence, their spiritual home was in the East Village, where they met, made music and basically created a motley community that refused to be part of the larger society.
New York’s East Village has historically been a haven for rebels, artists, poets, and outsiders—those who either refused to be part of the system or those who (like immigrants) had not yet been accepted into the mainstream culture. I have always felt that this part of Manhattan offered the space, both physically and emotionally for those who wanted to create, either a rebellion, art, music or a new life —since this area was in flux, it offered the raw material with which to hatch dreams. The punks and skinheads would not appear to most people to be dreamers, their outrageous symbols (swastika’s, torn clothing, black leather etc.) suggest an aggressive and openly hostile style, but this style had meaning, it expressed a rage and an alienation against a society which they felt gave them no voice in their future and they turned that anger into community, music and style.