7 things in her bag: Sheila Rock

7 things in her bag: Sheila Rock

London-based photographer Sheila Rock may not look it, but she is an expert on the British punk movement.

She spent part of her 20s between 1976 and 1979 hanging out and photographing punk musicians such as The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Siouxsie & The Banshees and The Damned. Last year, these photographs were published in a book titled Punk+.

Both photography and her punk subjects came by chance, says Rock, who is now in her early 60s.

"As a young person, I gravitated to things that were out of the box," says the American.

Born in Chicago to a Hawaiian father and Japanese-American mother, she moved to London in the 1970s to study film at the London Film School and found her way into social circles dominated by musicians.

"I went to see the Patti Smith Group in concert and took my camera along. Then I got to meet The Clash and asked if I could photograph them in the studio. Just by being in the circle, I got to meet other musicians," says the photographer, who also studied political science at Boston University.

A selection of 28 photographs from the book are on display at The Substation Gallery until this Sunday. The exhibition is part of the festivities to commemorate the French lifestyle brand Agnes B's 10 years in Singapore. The brand's founder Agnes Trouble, better known as Agnes B, is an avid supporter of street culture.

Speaking in measured tones throughout the interview, Rock points out that her photographs reflect only the early years of the British punk scene where a lot of creativity and youthful energy was witnessed. The "+" sign in the book's title is meant to remind people of punk's positive influence.

"It got darker in the later years when musicians started spitting on the stage and people thought this irreverent way of behaving was totally punk," she says.

Over the years, she has expanded her repertoire to include landscape and fashion photography. Her recent works include shooting for brands such as French Connection, BMW and Swatch.

While she may have spent a lot of time with punk musicians, the petite woman says that she never had a punk fashion moment - a look characterised by torn jeans, safety pins, tartan prints and spiky hairdos.

"I was always low-key; I didn't tear my clothes or wear any funky make-up. I might have owned a black motorcycle jacket, but that was it," says Rock, who is single.

Forty years on, she believes that her documentation of the punk scene will remain relevant.

"It was an important moment where young people were living out who they wanted to be, which I think is a very romantic idea," she says.

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