New Book & Exhibition | Heroes Unbound

We Can Be Heroes by Graham Smith.
Punks, Poseurs, Peacocks and People of a Particular Persuasion
London Clubland 1976 – 84
Exhibition: The Society Club, London, until 23rd December 2011.
Book: Published by Unbound, 8th December 2011

You could be anybody. If you were there. You were somebody.

Graham Smith just happened to be there and knew how to use a camera. 450 of his previously unseen images of the heroes for whom he became the house photographer: Sade, Boy George, Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet, Robert Elms and Steve Strange, among many others from London’s vital and legendary club scene – Billy’s, The Blitz, Le Beat Route, Mud Club, Dirt Box and The Wag – of the late 70s and early 80s grace the pages of We Can be Heroes. Researcher, film critic and writer, Chris Sullivan supplies the main text and there are personal accounts and quotes from many of the main players.

We can be heroes is being published via the publishing platform founded by writers John Mitchinson, Justin Pollard and Dan Kieran. It’s an interesting and novel concept in book publishing wherein well-known and new authors pitch their book ideas directly to their potential readers via a website. If you like a certain book you can pledge your support by donating towards the set target figure deemed necessary to bring it to fruition. When an idea has enough support the book is produced as a cloth-bound limited edition; if it doesn’t get enough support, it doesn’t get published, in which case supporters receive a full refund. All pre-target supporters get their name printed in every edition of each book and, at every level, each receives the e-book. Those who have pledged more money, depending on the amount, may receive a personally dedicated copy or, as in this case, a deluxe copy with two signed prints from the photographer, or be invited to the book launch and perhaps to meet the author. There are also many ways you can follow the book’s progress, for example, all supporters gain access to the author’s shed.

Graham Smith, in the Unbound pitch video, looks as if he might have been more comfortable behind the camera rather than before it. There’s a shot of him in the book, taken at the time he was engaged in photographing the peacocks and birds of paradise who frequented the clubs that would seem to bear this theory out: avoiding eye-contact with the photographer Swift looks down at the camera in his hands, as if longing for the moment when he can put it back in front of his face. Smith was not a paparazzo. His reticence may well have been the key to the intimacy he was able to achieve with the flamboyant subjects in his pictures.

Images from top
Steve Strange outside Club for Heroes, 1981
Sade, 1983
Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet) at Warren Street Squat, 1981
All photographs ©Graham Smith, courtesy of the photographer

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