Never-before-seen photos of Blondie are now on display in an exhibition at Somerset House in London, in celebration of the band’s 40th anniversary. The candid snapshots by Blondie co-founder and guitarist Chris Stein give fans an inside look on the band’s rise to fame.
Before Blondie, Stein was studying photography at the School of Visual Arts in 1968, shooting in downtown New York to capture the culture of the time. He met Debbie Harry and formed Blondie in 1973. He set up a darkroom in their kitchen on 17th Street and began documenting their journey in photos. Ultimately, his work helped to establish Harry as a fashion and music icon.
The 50 photos selected for the new exhibition are Stein’s personal favorites, from iconic locations like Mudd Clubb, CBGBs, Andy Warhol’s Factory, the now-defunct Beverly Hills Hotel, and an early, gritty East Village. They also feature other 70s and 80s icons such as Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Joan Jett, Iggy Pop, and The Ramones.
In a recent interview with BBC News, Stein explained the thought behind one particular image, which shows Harry walking down 14th street on the East side of Manhattan. “I’m just always amused by everybody in the picture staring at Debbie. I’ve always thought it was mostly because no one looked like that at that time.”
He also discussed a photograph entitled “Drama in the Kitchen,” which shows Harry attending to a flaming frying pan. “That was in our apartment on 17th street when we were off on tour,” explained Stein. “My mother called us up and said ‘Don’t get upset, but your apartment burned down.’ People lately have told me that it looks like a fashion shoot, a modern one that’s been staged, but that was our burned-up kitchen.”
The exhibition, entitled Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie and The Advent of Punk, will run from November 5th, 2014 to January 25th, 2015 at London’s Somerset House. The photos are also featured in a newly-released book of the same name, which is available for purchase here. The book, as well as some limited edition prints and other merchandise, are now on sale at the exhibition shop.