Donofthedead has been with Razorcake from day one and he put in some time with Flipside with me. After Razorcake started, in addition to doing more than his fair share of record reviews, Don started doing live reviews for the website. A little while after, he asked me, “Do you mind if I just take pictures and post them up with links?” I thought it through. Part of what keeps Razorcake unique is that we only publish exclusive material and in this world where it’s almost too easy to dump a thousand photos into the sky (known to others more technical as the interweb), I asked Don if he could make his postings unique. Instead of complaining, Don taught himself Photoshop, collected the shots of each band, picked the best three or four frames, made a background, used the band’s logo, and, to this day, Don posts up live DIY punk shots on razorcake.org with amazing frequency.
Through putting together zines for the past fourteen years, I’ve come in contact with hundreds of photographers. Publishing books of contemporary music—not to mention DIY punk—is a difficult, rare, and risky venture. Publishers are hesitant because, by their nature, photo books need good paper and good paper’s expensive. Photographers themselves—well, they want to be photographers and not publishers. One of the worst feelings in the world is printing a thousand books, selling less than a hundred, and staring at those fucking boxes every day for years as a tangible reminder of your failure.
Again, Don took it upon himself to learn a tedious nuts and bolts process—all the digital prepress to make his own book. Instead of complaining, Don went through multiple self-publishing companies—and complete format redesigns—before he found a match.
The end result is Scene through My Lens. The format’s easy to visualize. Seventy-five all-ages friendly southern California DIY punk and hardcore bands. Each gets their own cross-page spread. The bands are ordered alphabetically. There are no beer banners in the background; in fact, most of the backgrounds are cinder block walls. It’s all in black and white. It comes across as fair and democratic. Don takes great pains to get shots of each member of the band in every spread. Don’s photos also show how big, diverse, and divergent punk is in the area he lives in. And if that’s not a testament to one of the essential powers of photography, I’m not sure what is (even if Don claims he’s “not a photographer, but I like to take pictures.”)
My only suggestion for Don’s next book—which is already in the works—is to lighten the backgrounds so they don’t compete so much with the photos in the foreground. Other than that, let the DIY dictum of “learning through doing” keep etching its course because Don’s accomplished what few punk photographers have: made his own book by himself instead of complaining about it or endlessly formulating a litany of excuses. –Todd Taylor (Order directly through unibook.com in the arts and culture section.)