‘HARD + FAST’ is the first official collection of work by legendary rock photographer Melanie Nissen. Gracing the pages of the illustrious punk rock fanzine Slash from 1977-1980, her photos have always stood apart. Published by Blank Industries and due out February 1, 2022, the ‘HARD + FAST’ hardbound art book will also be available in a “special edition” bundle which comes with three exclusive 7” singles from Devo, the Go-Go’s and a Dangerhouse Records split single.
“I did the first Devo photo shoot in LA at the Slash Magazine studio,” reflects Nissen. “I’m a big fan of theirs but had no idea what to expect. We hadn’t met yet. It was very exciting to photograph them. They brought a lot of energy, interesting things to work with and are very creative. Soon they were in their underwear and so it began. I loved it and will never forget it. To listen to their music is a bonus for the photos.”
You can listen to the Devo 7” tracks Too Much Paranoias + Praying Hands via SoundCloud below.
In its early years, the L.A. punk scene was egalitarian, and the mix of people in her pictures is astonishing. Senior citizens, people of every race, children, swells in fancy clothes, people in rags – everyone was welcome. “The early years were special,” Nissen reflects. “There was a real sense of camaraderie and everyone was generous with their work.”
Immersed in the burgeoning scene herself, Nissen was friends with most of the people she photographed. This created a unique trust and comfort for her subjects to act naturally, injecting a biting sense of humour and extravagant body language into her photographs. There are also elements of formal portraiture evocative of work by Richard Avedon; like Avedon, Nissen sometimes prints her portraits framed with rough outlines of thick black ink that give them an unconventional edge.
When Nissen left Slash she embarked on a career in the record industry, working as a photographer and graphic designer for the four major labels – Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Virgin, and A&M – for more than two decades.