Chris Stein, as co-founder and guitarist of pioneer punk band Blondie, had a front-row view of a historic period in New York during the 1970s.
Now, he’s sharing some of that perspective in a new photography book, titled Point of View: Me, New York City, and the Punk Scene.
Although the city that never sleeps has undergone a massive transformation since the Beame and Koch administrations from a time illustrated by graffiti-swathed subway trains and a seedy Times Square to a Disneyfied version of a city swamped with chain restaurants and high-rise luxury condos, it wasn’t always that way.
“The city in 1970 was physically similar (to how it is now) in many ways, but the atmosphere was extremely different,” he writes in his book. “It was much less crowded. There weren’t many tourists. It was darker and there was more magic around.”
The photography book offers scenes of a grittier Gotham of a bygone era with snapshots of such cultural giants as Iggy Pop, William Burroughs, Andy Warhol and Blondie frontwoman Deborah Harry.
Stein, who was raised in Brooklyn, says his interest in photography came at an early age.
“I’ve always photographed what was around,” he tells CNN in a phone interview. “I started screwing around with little cameras — Brownie cameras as they called them when I was a kid.”
Stein says he was influenced by his friend Dennis McGuire, an apprentice of photographer Diane Arbus, with his big break coming as Iggy Pop and David Bowie invited Blondie to open for them on “The Idiot Tour” in 1977.
“Bowie was a little cautious about having his picture taken,” Stein says. “I don’t think he actually thought I was a real photographer. He was more controlling about the stuff he put out of himself, so we have a couple of shots of him. But the stuff with Iggy — he was down for anything.”
Book: Point of View: Me, New York City, and the Punk Scene, by Chris Stein, Rizzoli.