Self-portrait by Martin Sorrondeguy.
Martin Sorrondeguy is a major figure in the punk underground. Los Crudos remains one of the most influential hardcore bands of the last 20 years, while his current band Limp Wrist is a riotous queer take on traditional hardcore punk. But Sorrondeguy has also been a prolific photographer, something that many of his music fans may have not realized. Get Shot is a captivating book collecting over 400 images spanning more than two and a half decades of work.
This visual diary reflects Sorrondeguy’s life, including his travels to five continents, as well as at home in the States. As a result of his lifelong involvement with punk, Get Shot is a loving portrait of the culture as well as a stunning collection of photos.
In the participatory spirit of the hardcore punk community, Get Shot features live shots of bands, but it also includes portraits of the people who make the scene happen, the show promoters, kids who let bands crash on their floors and punks with charged hair hanging out on the street.
Speaking to Cult MTL from a tour stop in Chicago, Sorrondeguy reveals that “with this book, I wanted to show the screaming faces and the energy coming from punk in a live setting, but I also wanted to show what the life of a punk might look like once the amps and microphones are turned off.” He credits his background in photo studies for his flexible approach to portraying the scene, saying that “in order to tell a more accurate story about a person, place or group of people,” he knew that he needed “to show as many sides of it as possible.”
While these images document a particular moment in late-20th century and early 21st-century punk, Sorrondeguy’s photographs are surprisingly timeless. A picture of half a dozen punks wearing black Chucks and sitting in a circle on the floor could have been taken yesterday. A portrait of Toronto artist and promoter Will Munro taken in a bathroom in the early 2000s could pass for an image of one of Warhol’s superstars in the loo at Max’s Kansas City. An empty street lined with trees and old cars in Montevideo, Uruguay could have been taken anytime in the last 70 years.
Starting out with a Polaroid camera as a child, Sorrondeguy received his first real camera as a Christmas gift a few years later. While he cites art photo heavyweights like Robert Frank, Nan Goldin and Larry Clark as well as punk photographers like Murray Bowles as influences, he also finds inspiration outside of the art world; everywhere from deep underground to high culture.
Sorrondeguy readily admits to being a cultural omnivore, stating that “ever since I left high school I began to sponge and take in art, music, and film from everywhere; anything I could get my hands on I would explore.” This openness is evident throughout his work. One photo of a punk upside down with his head in a hole seems to be a canny critique of the tunnel vision that can limit any subculture. Positioned on the page alongside a photo of a fog-enshrouded Eiffel Tower, this juxtaposition seems to encourage a perspective that extends beyond the local to engage with a range of cultural influences. The geographic and cultural range of the photos collected in Get Shot celebrate this open-minded perspective.
Sorrondeguy is promoting the book through the same punk circuit that he toured with his bands. His book tour brings him to Montreal’s venerable Sonik Records on Saturday, following a number of dates in the U.S. In the new year he will be heading south, first to Australia and then through South America, including a tour stop in his birth place of Montevideo, Uruguay.
He acknowledges that Get Shot is a departure from his work as a musician, admitting that “the book is much quieter than any of my bands.” And while photo book aficionados are less common in the punk scene than record collectors, his photos are striking enough to attract a wide audience of art lovers, hardcore punk rockers, and everyone in between. Get Shot is as much a statement on art’s big themes — life and death, individuality and community — as it is a remarkable document of the international punk scene. ■
Get Shot: A Visual Diary, 1985-2012 by Martin Sorrondeguy, Make-a-Mess Records, 244 pp. hardcover, $28. The Montreal book launch takes place Saturday, Nov. 3, 2 – 5 p.m. Sonik Records (4050 Berri), free
Jeff Miller is the author of the award-winning short story collection Ghost Pine: All Stories True (Invisible Publishing, 2010). He lives and drinks coffee in Little Italy.