Hard + Fast: Melanie Nissen’s Photography Documents LA Punk Scene From 1977-1980

[Cover photo © Melanie Nissen – Jane Wiedlin & Belinda Carlisle – Go-Go’s]

Melanie Nissen shot photographs for the Punk Rock fanzine Slash from 1977-1980 and will release the first official collection of her work with HARD + FAST, a hardbound art book published by Blank Industries due out February 1, 2022.

Immersed in the burgeoning scene herself, Nissen was friends with most of the people she photographed. This created a unique trust and comfort for her subjects. There are also elements of formal portraiture; like Richard Avedon, Nissen sometimes prints her portraits framed with rough outlines of thick black ink that give them an unconventional edge.

Nissen comments:

“I can see that these are also documentary pictures because they include elements of Los Angeles that have disappeared. The Tropicana Motel, bars and cocktail lounges, newsstands, nightclubs, the street life on Hollywood Boulevard, boutiques run by and for punks, burger stands, phone booths – these things are gone today, and they represent an aspect of L.A. history that shouldn’t be forgotten. The entire city had the familiarity of a neighborhood then, and that’s no longer the case.  L.A. is my home, though, and I’ll always remain loyal to it; I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.” 

When Nissen left Slash she embarked on a career in the record industry, working as a photographer and graphic designer for the four major labels, including Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Virgin, and A&M, for more than two decades. 

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