Sandy; Hermosa Photography by SPOT
In 1975 acclaimed house producer Spot, then a struggling young musician in Hollywood, packed up his bags and moved to Hermosa Beach in Southern California to help build the Media Art Recording Studio. Upon arriving at the studio, the keen photographer was delighted to find a fully equipped darkroom just begging to be used. "That’s what did it," he explains. "When not engineering sessions for bands and artists of varying degrees of skill, I was skating and taking pictures and writing stories."
The resulting photographs, taken between 1975 and 1981 (when the studio closed), are an enchanting homage to 70s "So Cal" counterculture – a world where sun-kissed, swimsuit-clad youngsters cruised the streets on roller skates and skateboards by day, before descending into darkened basements to immerse themselves in the burgeoning punk scene by night. Now, over thirty years after the event, the images are finally available for public consumption in the form of a glorious new book entitled, Sounds of Two Eyes Opening. Here, in celebration of its release, we speak to Spot to find out more about his motives as a photographer and how So Cal has changed, alongside a selection of our favourite photographs from the publication.
Walking; Hermosa Photography by SPOT
On being a part of 70s counterculture...
"It's almost impossible to sum it up but the grand explosion of 60s counter-cultural zeal and music started running aground in the early 70s and by the mid-70s FM Rock radio had become the tightly controlled morass of 'Classic Rock' that has been forced on the masses ever since. Disco (and dancing) may have been a high point but, aside from a few great tunes, people took the polyester era, the pot and cocaine, way too seriously. In a number of ways 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald' and 'Disco Inferno' sum up the era better than any other songs I can think of. I was lucky to fall into (non-disco) rollerskating. It made sense. When ground level punk/art/fanzine culture established itself, music became fun again because it didn't have to be popular to be exciting. Popularity is a bad measurement of quality. And mainstream culture seriously avoided us!"
“Radical” Rheilly & damsel; HermosaPhotography by SPOT
On why he took the photographs...
"I was just doing it because it was there to be done and it was something I always wanted to do. There were stories happening all around and I just paid attention to them – simple as that; it's all just a matter of paying attention and knowing when to click the shutter. It was kind of like listening to opera."
"If you're gonna make a mistake, make it the biggest, loudest mistake you can" — Spot
On how Southern California has changed...
"I totally miss the 'old days' but everybody does no matter where they're from. So Cal has an amazing, vibrant history. It's sad that the pioneering spirit has been replaced with industries of calculated finance, facile entitlement and image regeneration."
Rooftop girls; Hermosa Photography by SPOT
On the best the best advice he's been given...
"I've gotten a lot of gems in my day but one of the best was: 'If you're gonna make a mistake, make it the biggest, loudest mistake you can.' And writer G.S. Oldman once told me: 'The only good spitball is the one you chew long enough and throw just as hard.'"
Sendy; Hermosa Photography by SPOT
On what makes a makes a great photograph...
"A well-composed story that doesn't need to be explained and is not afraid to fall on its face."