The Thursday Agitation: Chrissy Piper

My first significant introduction to the work of photographer Chrissy Piper came via her 1998 collection The Unheard Music, a visually distinctive collection of live and portrait photos of bands making their way in the indie/punk/hardcore world of the 1990s. It includes bands whose names still inspire devotion today (Fugazi, Rocket From the Crypt), and others less well known (Railhed, John Henry West). But the selection of photos went beyond visceral live-show imagery (though that’s there in abundance) and includes a greater sense of the surrounding community: musicians are seen offstage, relaxed; fanzine publishers captured in repose. In the decade since then, Piper has continued to work as a photographer (a list of her clients can be seen here and, more recently, had debuted a zine called Three Records. Three Records matches photographs of numerous people — some musicians, some not — with lists or essays they’ve written on their three favorite records; the result is both illuminating and, in a subtle way, inspiring.

[Previous interviews in this series can be found here.]

In your introduction to the second issue, you mention that there will be at least one more issue — what is your overall goal for the project?
My ultimate goal for this project is to have all the issues made in to a book. That’s pretty much the plan for now though it seems never ending so I need to set a deadline and go for it!

When assembling Three Records, how did you resolve the tradeoff between preserving the quality of your photographs and the more DIY nature of a zine?
I knew that to do a true zine, with xerox machines and all, that the quality of the photos would be lost. That’s one of the bonuses to turning it in to a book– the photo quality will be sooo much better. I also want to give everyone a chance to really write about their records (if they want to). Doing a book would give them that opportunity.

I’ve noticed that in some of the portraits, the people photographed are wearing band t-shirts, while others are not — do you think there’s more of an interaction between people’s lists and their images depending on how they’re presented?
A lot of the times the photos used were taken before the zine was out so I don’t think it’s really relevant. Though, I will say, for the third issue, I made a photo of someone specifically for the zine and the woman wore a band shirt of one of the bands she wrote about. She really loves Jawbreaker. HA.

You maintain a blog, a portfolio site, and a gallery on Flickr — how do you go about deciding what the best location is for a specific image?
My Flickr page is where I put photos that I like but wouldn’t necessarily put them on my website. It’s just a good way to show photos of what’s going on in my life, what I’ve been up to. As for photos on the website, that’s more for potential clients that may be looking for a photographer for a specific job. I guess you could say it’s like a portfolio. Of course there is crossover between the Flickr page and my website. Everything on the site is on Flickr just not vice versa. As for my blog, that’s more what I’ve been up to work or project wise or links to things or people I find inspiring.
Something that strikes me about Three Records is how it shows — for lack of a better word — the maturation of people coming from the punk/hardcore/metal scene. Was this element of it something you had in mind when you began the project?
Honestly, when I started the zine, I didn’t know what was going to come out of it. The entire project came out of a conversation with a friend who isn’t involved in the punk scene. I spent a long time explaining to her what the records/lyrics meant to me, especially while growing up. Like what it was like to first hear Minor Threat and that feeling of belonging and knowing there were others out there that thought like me. So, really, the zine was more just wanting to see what records did that for people and their stories about it.

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