Life & Culture

Photos Capturing Debbie Harry and Billy Idol in Downtown NYC

Ahead of two new exhibitions of her late 70s archive, Julia Gorton discusses her photographs of New York’s downtown legends

An ingénue flitting around downtown New York in the 1970s, Julia Gorton aimed her Polaroid lens at some of the greatest musical acts to define the era. Her collection of photographs remained largely unseen, until she decided to start unveiling them on Instagram a few years ago, her intent being to build a digital archive – not expecting to attract the attention she has. Paying homage to the era, the now-graphic designer is using her pictures to create limited run zines, collaging snaps of Lydia Lunch, Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell, and even self-portraits. This January, her photographs will finally be shown outside of the digital world, with two gallery shows in London. Ahead of these exhibitions and alongside a preview of images which will be on display, Gorton discusses this series and the role photography has played in her life.

“As a photographer, I was able to gain some sense of control from behind the camera that I didn’t have in the other parts of my life. My relationship with each subject was unique and based on how comfortable we were with each other. When you photograph someone, no matter where it is, you adjust your expectations based on what’s in front of you and how well the shoot is going; it can be difficult because you lack experience and skills, nothing comes out like you’d like it to. I was endlessly disappointed that I had missed ‘the shot’.

Richard [Hell] looks stunning on film and in person, and it was easy to get a great photo working with him. One of his early singles features one of my photos. Although not one of my favourites, it’s evocative of that specific time and has a certain charm to it. I didn’t know then if what I was doing was any good, but I loved doing it.”

Julia Gorton – Exhibit of Unique Photos & Graphics is at Untitled Bar, 538 Kingsland Road, E8 46H, January 4. Photo & Zines – Ollie Murphy & Julia Gorton is at Doomed Gallery Dalston, 65 - 67 Ridley Road, E8 2NP, January 5-6.