Joe Streno circa 1980
Joe Streno recalls how, as a young photographer working on a shoe-string, he got his first break thanks to the Clash: ‘Back in the 70’s and 80’s you could take a real camera into any show. When I photographed the Clash I was a fan first, a photographer second…in the beginning I bought tickets to see the shows and brought my camera along…it was the D.I.Y. ethic the Clash espoused!’
For the 1979 Palladium NYC show I only had one 36 frame roll of colour film and one roll B&W – I was 22 years-old and broke. My friend Dorothy and I had pretty good orchestra seats and that’s where I shot the live shots that can be seen in the opening credits of Danny Garcia’s film. When the show was over we went round to the Stage door to wait for the band to come out. From the first face I saw, I started shooting, that was Topper, then Lee Dorsey, and then DJ Barry ‘Scratchy’ Myers. As Mick Jones came out he headed towards the bus parked at the end of the street. While he walked he talked to fans & signed autographs. I walked backwards taking photo after photo of Mick, Dorothy at my back making sure I didn’t trip or run into anyone. I fed off the energy and excitement of the fans and how Mick connected with them. Joe and Paul were just hanging out talking to people, and I got some shots of them. Joe always took time to talk and hang out with fans.
Later, I got guest-listed to see the band at Bond’s and there is one shot of Topper fist pumping as he’s climbing down off the drum riser which he says id one of his favourite photos of himself. That just amazes me!
Backstage at Bonds I wasn’t officially ‘press’ but Kosmo was nice enough to let me bring my camera. I was in heaven, but also knew this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I tried to take fly on the wall shots the whole night, but I did ask Paul & Pearl to pose for me … one resulting photo of Paul became my first ever published photo, as a full back cover in the British magazine Teenage Kicks. I always imagined the photo ripped off and tacked to the walls of Clash fans all over Europe.
One of the best photos of the night was of Joe Strummer. The band was on the other side of a curtain for press photos and I couldn’t get in. Dorothy saw I wasn’t having the best of luck trying to muscle my way into that little nook where Joe, Mick and Paul were being photographed by the press. She stood on one side of the curtain divider and called me over. ‘Streno! Come here! I’ll pull the curtain back and you be ready to take the picture’. And so it happened. Dorothy pulled back the curtain. One of us called to Joe. He turned, looked straight into the lens, I focused, framed, and pop, the photo was taken. As soon as it was done, I thanked him, and Joe pulled back the curtain and went about his business on the other side.
Check out today’s ‘Pic of the Day’