Punk’s Aesthetic

I was so upset with what was going on in the world. I just couldn’t stand the idea of being people tortured and that we even had such a thing as war. I hated the older generation, who had not done anything about it. Punk was a call-to-arms for me.  (Vivienne Westwood)


The punk subculture, which centres on punk rock music, includes a diverse array of ideologies, fashions and other forms of expression. The subculture is largely characterized by anti-establishment views and the promotion of individual freedom.


Punk rock was an intentional rebuttal of the perceived excess and pretension found in mainstream culture, and early punk artist’s fashion was defiantly anti-materialistic. Generally unkempt, often short hairstyles, dirty and simple clothes : T-shirt, jeans, leather jacket, second-hand “dress” clothes were preferred over the expensive or colorful clothing popular in the disco scene, like Ramones and Patti Smith‘s styles.

American punk rock group The Ramones. Left to right: Johnny Ramone (1948 - 2004) Tommy Ramone, Joey Ramone (1951 - 2001) and Dee Dee Ramone (1952 - 2002).   (Photo by Roberta Bayley/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Musician Patti Smith

In the United Kingdom, a great deal of punk fashion from the 1970s was based on the designs of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, mainstream punk style was influenced by clothes sold in Malcolm McLaren’s shop “Sex“.

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Punk visual art is artwork associated with the punk subculture. It often graces punk rock album covers, flyers for punk concerts, punk zines and punk websites. The main aesthetic of punk visual art seems to be to either shock, create a sense of empathy or revulsion. One characteristic associated with punk art is the usage of letters cut out from newspapers and magazines, a device previously associated with kidnap and ransom notes. A prominent example of that style is the cover of the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks album designed by Jamie Reid.

sex_pistols jaime reid


Nan Goldin’s ‘Ballad of Sexual Dependency’

When Aperture published Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency three decades ago, the artist was met with brutal criticism; she was told, mostly by men, that her slideshow of images was not photography. The young photographer, then in her early thirties, didn’t pay them any heed. In conversation with Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, she admits that quite frankly, she “didn’t care about good photography.” Maybe that fact is paradoxically what makes her photographs so painfully good, even thirty years later.
Goldin created The Ballad to remember, to safeguard the things and the people that happened to her from being glossed over with the rosy tinge of nostalgia. The Ballad honors the bad and the beautiful, the tender and the violent, in equal measure, illuminating the ways in which the human race is both hopeless in relationships and hopeful in love.

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The book on vimeo 


Gloria Colaianni