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It’s incredible that [the far-right] could take something that was so inclusive and weaponise it to divide people’ – Gavin Watson During the early 1980s, political affiliations grew in significance and split the subculture, distancing the far right and left-wing strands, although many skinheads described themselves as apolitical. What’s crazy to me is I took so many pictures,” Watson says on the phone from his London studio. “I couldn’t afford to do it. No one ever paid me to do it. No one ever saw the pictures. I just took them for no real reason, except that I enjoyed taking them.”

Skins by Gavin Watson | Goodreads

The growth of the right-wing National Front and its recruitment of youth merely increased the amount of conflict present in the skinhead subculture. Punk shows and Ska shows were marred by skinhead violence. Even American newspapers covered the race riots that exploded in London in 1981.What makes Gavin’s photos so special is that when you look at them, there’s clearly trust from the subject towards the photographer, so it feels like you’re in the photo rather than just observing.” –Shane Meadows (Director of award-winning film This Is England). A decade later, when Shane Meadows made This is England, I was able to deal with what I’d created. He discovered my book and made a story out of it — it’s very close to the bone, like watching my life. Watson first encounted the Two-tone movement – which fuses ska, punk, and new wave – when he was 14, when he caught Madness on TV in 1979. 40 years on, Watson has come full circle with his new book Oh! What Fun We Had (Damiani), which launches at Donlon Books tonight and features never-before-seen photographs chronicling the rough-hewn kids who transformed skinhead culture into a global phenomenon.

The original British Skinhead subculture in photographic The original British Skinhead subculture in photographic

Skins by Gavin Watson has been argued as being ‘the single most important record’ of 1970s skinhead culture in Britain, who have possibly been one of the most reviled yet misunderstood of the nation’s youth subcultures.” — Daily Mail At the age of 14, Watson began photographing his brother, Neville, and his group of friends, who all grew up at the forefront of their local skinhead scene in High Wycombe. Watson’s work had no specific intention or motive behind it –“I’ve got tens of thousands of pictures that I took for no reason whatsoever”– other than simply tracing a period of pure friendship, era-defining style and real life. Over the years, Watson has insisted that he doesn’t feel sentimentally attached to his photographs, but if his work isn’t close to his heart then perhaps it’s simply too close for comfort. “I literally had no involvement in the editing [of the new book], because it’s so personal,” he clarifies. “And if someone pissed me off at 16, they’re not going in my book. I know it’s petty. So that’s why I don’t edit stuff. Because other people see things that I’ll never see.” Instead, his friend Rini Giannaki took on the hefty task of editing the book, which features images that had been carefully archived over the years by his father.While there is little doubt that North Americans, especially Canadians as part of the British Commonwealth, were exposed to skinhead subculture in the late 1960s and during the initial resurgence of this movement in 1978, it did not take hold as a youth cult in the United States until the arrival of punk. Until a few years ago Gavin's images had been held within underground cult status, with his work being brought into the media by Shane Meadows after images from ‘Skins’ Gavin's first book were used as the inspiration and muse for the award winning film This is England. He continues to take photos and has been a long time colaborator with the singer Plan B. A new book of his unseen archive will be published in 2018.

skinheads in the 1980s were young, pissed Photos: British skinheads in the 1980s were young, pissed

Northern soul was a music and dance movement that grew out of the British mod scene in northern England in the late 1960s, largely inspired by the faster tempo and darker sounds of mid-60s American soul music. Records emerging from the Northern Soul scene became known as ‘stompers’ for their soulful vocals and heavy beats. Watson’s work is notable for a few reasons, not least the tenderness he lends to a group long vilified in the media. His pictures feel real because they bring us inside a circle of friends the same way we might experience life: variances of closeness and distance, a metered consistency of looking, tinges of sentiment belied by pragmatism. In short, the end of youth.First published in 1994, Gavin Watson’s inimitable publication Skins is one of the most renowned documentations of British sub-culture to date. Beginning his career aged fourteen after impulsively purchasing a camera at Woolworth’s, Watson’s photographs have inspired films, exhibited globally and most importantly, been shared between the people who stood before his lens three decades ago as a reminder of their glory days. EJ: That’s amazing. I want to touch on music again briefly because it’s such an integral part of your work…

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