Yony Leyser spent a couple years documenting places most people would consider total scumholes: Ida, a utopian vegan transgender commune in Tennessee; Christiana, an anarchist village formed in 1969 in Copenhagen; and Kopi, Europe's largest squat. Yeah, yeah, you've seen tons of photos of punks and most of 'em feel overly nostalgic for safety pins, or square and clueless and borderline judgemental, or like some kind of dirt-ass jock gangbang full of total nonfunny fucking idiots. But we talked to Yony about his photos (click below for that) all he's doing is showing contemporary crusties at their finest. (Yes, that girl above is smoking weed out of a noodle.) His show opens at Heaven Gallery in Chicago tonight at 7 PM. Grant Hart from H√ºsker D√º is appearing out of the ether to perform, as is 4AD's Anni Rossi.
Yony Leyser: I think each photo sparks a different emotion in me. Mostly, they just remind me that there are a lot of people under the radar, most of them hiding out in Europe. I got to meet everyone from an aging punk who demanded to be naked and claimed she had the first pet rat. The rat had babies and she gave them to the Sex Pistols and other punk bands, sparking the trend; to nine-year-old runaway anarchist kids. The name of the show came from the tattoo you see in the photo above. There was a punk who was passed out on a rock at 3 PM in Christiana. He had a big red Mohawk and the words "Daily Life Sucks" on his head. Yeah, in a way it can be depressing. But when I ask myself why it is depressing, I'm not sure. I think it has to do with the rigid square goggles that we are all trained to wear that lead us towards success, straight life, and to offices on the tops of skyscrapers. So I really don't know who I feel worse for, sexually frustrated business people stuck in traffic in their SUVs or passed-out punks. The show is more for those business people who have no idea any world exists out of suburbia or their yuppie bars, or the office Christmas party. We need to diversify our surroundings.
Did you know your subjects?
I did get to know many of my photo subjects. That meant hanging out in very unsavory environments. Some of them were really not cognizant most of the time.
I heard you're a fancy reporter sometimes.
No, but I've been working on a documentary about William S. Burroughs. That's how I met Grant Hart. They were good friends. Burroughs was friends with a lot of punks for some reason. Well, many happened to be good-looking guys. I've been working on the documentary for four years. It all started in Lawrence, Kansas. I've interviewed Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop, John Waters, David Cronenberg, Gus Van Sant, Hal Wilner, Laurie Anderson, Genesis P-Orridge, George Condo, Diane DiPrima, Anne Waldman, James Grauerholz, Peter Weller, the worlds largest deadly snake collector, and many other interesting characters that were friends with Burroughs. It should be out early next year.