CoastLine: Punk music videographers Emily Armstrong and Pat Ivers on recording early legends and the impact of AIDS
Emily Armstrong and Pat Ivers were in their 20s but had the audacity to lug around heavy video cameras and lighting equipment. Through their relentless embrace of their passion for punk, these two women wound up creating a comprehensive video catalog of important punk icons. They accomplished all this in a male-dominated, aggressive, and sometimes violent milieu.
In the late 1970s and early 80s, punk rock was on the rise, the New York City alternative music scene was in full swing, and two young videographers were recording punk rock bands that, at the time, were just minutes away from fame.
The scene was grounded in New York’s iconic nightclubs: CBGB, Danceteria, The Mudd Club, and it birthed a generation of musicians. Even more mainstream artists played the Manhattan Danceteria before they went global: Iggy Pop, Madonna, Billy Idol, Cyndi Lauper.
The era was also marked by sexual liberation, subcultures finding a broader platform, and traditionally marginalized people finding community. And what a community it was: lots of sex, cheap New York City rent, and a complete disregard for the establishment.
Our two videographers, who lugged around heavy video cameras and lighting equipment, remarkably, were women. In the late 70s and 80s, men were typically behind the camera, handling lighting, and editing video. But Emily Armstrong and Pat Ivers had taken control of their medium in a milieu, a culture that was male-dominated, aggressive, sometimes even violent.
But as we learn on this episode of CoastLine, that was the performative part of this community. Rather than violence, Pat and Emily found excitement and inspiration, yes, but also support, care, and acceptance. That community fell apart, though, when the AIDS epidemic hit.
The New York Times has called them the Lewis and Clark of rock video. Spin Magazine writes, “Lucky for us, two women put in the work and captured some of the all-time greatest rock acts in their prime.” Their video archives are now housed in New York University’s Failes Library.
Rachel Pittman is a graduate student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is also an instructor, where she teaches the history of 1980s movie image media.
Intersectional Feminist Media Lab, UNCW:
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