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Skinheads 1979-1984 (Book Review)

Skinheads 1979-1984

The Cracked & Spineless bookshop in Collins Street, Hobart mentioned they had copies of Skinheads 1979-1984 by Derek Ridgers. Without question, I had them put a copy away for me. Not only am I a man of that era, but I have fond memories of the Perth skinheads back in the early 1980s. The Perth skinheads were often at full war with the rocker gangs and had pitched battles at one point with the police. One small group of skinheads would enter Hungry Jacks in the Perth CBD every other Sunday; they’d take over a table and start chanting “We shall not be moved” until the police came to deal with the problem. I remember, for some reason, one particular (and large) skinhead. He wore a white tshirt with a British flag and red and blue braces.

Derek Ridgers’ perspective of the London skinheads runs pretty close to my own. I could have fallen in with them in my early years quite easily; although I certainly don’t lay claim to sharing their right wing politics. But young men are attracted to the party and that was certainly true of my younger self. And in Perth, although I was serving in the Navy at the time, the skinheads did look like The Party.

In Skinheads 1979-1984 Derek tells the story of how this five year project came into being. The skinheads had evolved from the so-called “hard mods” of the 1960s and, unlike the easier-going early skinheads, grew into a more right wing and bigoted version. Hitler salutes, nazi badges and tattoos; a belief in England for the white English working class. All of this captured in the portraits and crowds that made up the skinhead movement in front of Derek Ridgers’ camera lens.

And these are beautiful pictures on the printed page. Derek explains in the text how he processed the film in a small larder using photographic chemicals in cat trays. Barely standing room only. If anything, the rawness of these images adds to their documentary nature. These are skinheads, nothing more, nothing less.

The original “Skinheads” exhibition in 1980 was at the Chenil Studio Gallery in Chelsea and included Derek’s best 55 photographs and some taped audio interviews. It was a success and led to the project continuing until 1984.

This copy in my hands cost less than $20 for a well put together 160 page A4 sized paperback with a glossy cover. The pages are what you’d expect at that price point in a paperback format. More like a quality magazine stock, rather than a thick card stock. Overall, this is a very nice book if you’re interested in documentary, portraiture or the skinhead movement. It’s also evidence that you can build a decent photobook library without too much of a budget. Money well spent.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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