The punk scene in Boston holds a special place in the heart of its patrons. It’s always served as a memory of a time when the hub truly was Dirty Old Boston the way outsiders may think of its reputation today. Given the gritty nature of the times it comes as no surprise that figures like Phillip Spring - or Phil In Phlash as he’s come to be known - stepped to the forefront of the community to document one of the most explosive eras of the Boston music scene. Through his unique approach to photographing the typical insanity of a night in the punk scene, his work is a vital relic of a time gone from the public eye.
The Misfits mid stage dive in Cambridge
Phlash first began stepping into the scene while studying for his BFA at MassArt in the late 70s. In addition to photographing at night, he was a founding member of Punkt Data, a project and gallery surrounding the punk scene, he regularly started attending shows with a keen eye for capturing the energy. It would be an understatement to say his methods were unorthodox. His boldness became his calling card. He was infamous for snapping candid shots of his subjects, a technique he felt gave the viewer a better sense of what that fleeting moment was like in all it’s insanity rather than presenting a staged and contrived portrait of the subject. Looking back, it’s incredible that he had the guts to get these photos in the first place.
“This method didn’t come without trouble,” Phlash recalled. "I’ve been thrown out by more bouncers than a card counter in Vegas.”
What seems to resonate most with viewers is the wholly human quality that the off-guard portraits of performers present. Juxtaposed with electric photographs of frantic fans, these shots cemented them in iconography and created a dynamic composition difficult to mimic.
Godfather of Goth Peter Murphy of Bauhaus
As the era winded down and music would take a new face, Phlash would continue his work in Chicago and eventually gain recognition and applause from an international audience. It’s nevertheless crucial, though, to remember where he got his start. Some of Phlash’s earliest work premiered at the Gallery East in the Leather District. Founded by Duane Lucia and Al Ford, The space acted as a medium for the alternative scene in the city and while it would eventually close, it remains active as a web-based community today. While Phlash made his splash in the Windy City, Lucia remained local. He documented the area’s later punk scene, commonly called Hardcore in his documentary All Ages: The Boston Hardcore Film. See the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbWZMlpc1ds .
In honor of Phlash’s work, Midway Studios is teaming up with Lucia, recently re-installed as Director of the West End Museum, to premier PHLASH: A photo exhibition of Phlash’s work on March 5th through April 6th with reception taking place on March 9th along with an opportunity to meet Phlash in the phlesh. The show’s a must see for patrons, local history fanatics, and anyone interested in an era we’re lucky enough to reminisce and reflect on as our city becomes increasingly unrecognizable.
Bad Brains mid-snarl at The Streets