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Herbie Yamaguchi / The Blitz Kids

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It was London around 1980. Punk rock was on a slow decline, gradually being replaced by the emerging New Romantic movement and its young advocators. They adored David Bowie, exercised as much ingenuity as possible in costumes and makeup, and gathered at the Blitz club in Covent Garden every Thursday night. 

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The press eventually came to call them the “Blitz Kids”. Most of them were youngsters attending art school or hoping to become musicians or designers. If punk rock was an aggressive form of expression for social rebellion, Blitz Kids were aiming to express their own world view and statements in a nuance that was different from punk. There was an artistic, pop, and sophisticated feeling to their expression. In the early days of the movement, they did not make themselves known to the wider public, instead gathering at the Blitz in secret. For example, even if waiting in line all night long in the dead of winter to get inside, nobody was allowed to enter unless acquainted with their leader Steve Strange. Luckily, I was allowed to get inside thanks to the guidance of a friend who was close to them. I feel very grateful for that. Their music made heavy use of synthesizers and abounded in futuristic nuances, coming to define the times by the mid-80s. I usually shot in monochrome film, but learning the importance of the colors they used, I started using Kodachrome color film. Back then, I was pretty impoverished, going from one friend’s house to another as a lodger, and eating three meals a day on a regular basis was practically impossible. The cost of purchasing Kodachrome was a heavy blow to me, so in the Blitz, I took each and every photograph carefully, shooting only 20-odd cuts overnight. Nowadays in the digital era, I could have produced thousands of cuts of them, but the reality was that I could only take 20-30 rolls worth of Kodachrome at best. It is for this reason that there are only two handfuls of original color slides remaining in perfect condition. They were all enjoying the night at the Blitz merrily dancing and drinking, but a select few of them at the core of the movement seemed to be inspiring each other and honing their art, hoping to grow into artists in the future. The punk movement that began in the mid-1970s, and this movement that followed. Perhaps all the British youth back then grew up receiving baptism from and passing through these two movements to a greater or lesser extent. This is why many Brits regard these times in London to be the most culturally stimulating era. Indeed, within a few years, many remarkable musicians and artists with a global presence emerged from the young crowd at the Blitz. I still relish the fortune I had to witness London as it was back then as a photographer. I have inserted scenic photographs of the same era from page to page. I hope you can feel the atmosphere of London at the time.

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