If you’re a regular at punk and psychobilly shows, you know what it’s like to feel the energy, the excitement of being in a room crowded with people who like the same music you do and who put a little thought into their look before they left the house, just like you did.
After years of reveling in the atmosphere at these shows, photographer Steffi Veizen decided to bring along her camera and capture some of the intriguing people and punk rock moments she experienced, documenting the lifestyle as she saw it.
Based in NYC, Steffi Veizen tells Voodoo Tattoo Magazine about her punk rock roots, learning to love digital photography, and what it’s like asking the biggest, scariest guy in the room to pose for you.
Here are just some photos from her collection, scenes from shows in and around New York City as well as the annual Heavy Rebel Weekender in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Visit Steffi-Veizen.com to see more!
Voodoo Tattoo Magazine: When did you start going to see psychobilly and rockabilly bands? What were some of the bands you were into back then?
Steffi Veizen: My husband introduced me to rockabilly and psychobilly when we first met 16 years ago. It seemed like the natural progression from my punk rock roots.
VTM: Lots of people take pictures at shows. When did you decide to step it up and use your skills as a professional photographer to capture these images?
SV: The first show where I took a lot of portraits was the Heavy Rebel Weekender in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 2006. I had broken down a few years before that and bought my first digital camera.
SV: As an art school grad in 1993, I was trained on film, and for many years digital photography seemed like a cheap cop-out to me. I was very attached to the process of shooting film; the dead space and anticipation between shooting and viewing my results was such a big part of photography for me. It was really hard to give that up. Once I buried the old ways and embraced the new, I began to appreciate the instant gratification and cost effectiveness of digital photography. The Heavy Rebel Weekender was the first time I really took advantage of digital imaging.
VTM: What are some aspects of the psychobilly scene that appeal to you, personally or artistically?
SV: It probably sounds cliché, but if you meet the right set of people, any subculture is a family. So on a personal level, I love going to shows to meet up with friends and acquaintances with similar tastes. Spending time with people you have something in common with is such a basic human need. I know when I go to a show I have something in common with pretty much everyone there.
Artistically, this may sound obnoxious, it’s all ear and eye candy! Music is such a unique experience. And I love seeing how people choose to decorate themselves, it never gets dull.
VTM: Where did you take most of these photos? What are some shows or events that stand out as a great place to take photos?
SV: Most of my photos are taken in New York, where I live, and in North Carolina, where for some reason I’ve had my most prolific experiences. Any event that happens annually or that brings people together from different parts of the world is a no-brainer, people are usually in an especially celebratory mood and happy pose to for me.
VTM: What is it about a subject that most inspires you to photograph them?
SV: I appreciate people who have really made the commitment and are heavily tattooed, and women who spend a lot of time making themselves beautiful using their own standards. Some say, if a person wants to document (via writing, filmmaking or photography) they should document what’s right under their nose. There are many examples of people having great success doing this. If you’ve never tried this before, approach a total stranger and ask to photograph them. For as long as I’ve been shooting, it never gets easier. I really like to challenge myself and approach the biggest, scariest guy in the room and ask him to pose for me.
SV: I read an interview with a photographer named Chuck Klosterman, who photographed fans at heavy metal concerts. The photos are harsh and unflattering, but he said the experience was like hunting an endangered species. That pretty much sums up my process of seeing a person, following them around like a creep, then asking them to pose for me.
I make prints of all the images I post and attempt to find the model. Sometimes this takes years. If I do find the person, I’ve looked at their face for so long, I feel this kind of one-sided familiarity with them, and they obviously have no idea. I feel like a kind of involuntary stalker.
VTM: In what ways do you experience a show differently when you bring your camera along?
SV: Funny you should ask that! Taking my camera out to a show is a commitment. It’s heavy, expensive, and delicate. So I can’t get too drunk, spill liquids on it, or leave it behind. Using the bathroom is always a hassle. It certainly changes the experience. It’s a good way to keep sober and graceful!
VTM: In the years that you’ve been taking photos at shows, have you noticed any change in the types of people that you regularly see out at shows?
SV: From the days of seeing shows in squats in the late 80’s, people are definitively cleaner and more colorful!
VTM: You are available for wedding photography, but particularly for “alternative” weddings. What do you look for in an ideal wedding client?
SV: I am thrilled to photograph any wedding that has something, anything, different! Nerdy Star Wars fans, nude colony bungee jumpers, scuba-diving lesbians, Rainbow Brite shark tankers, please contact me!
–Miss Psychobilly Bass