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Thursday, 27 August 2015


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Love this. I'd be curious to know what you think makes a great portrait. Is it verisimilitude? Showing a side of someone you hadn't seen before? The inherent interest of the picture even if you don't know who's being portrayed?

In this case, what makes it great to me is not the head-in-a-circle bit -- which I find heavy-handed -- but the way it captures our Mr. Lydon's very faint smile, which you often notice in filmed footage, but rarely see in stills.

It's fascinating what elements in a portrait can "stop you in your tracks". I know nothing of this sitter (and have only heard of his band). But there are three elements that grab my attention and make this a memorable image.

1. The bulls-eye geometric pattern created by the background. This is further emphasized by the strong vignette.

2. Everything then frames or points towards this guy's face. His jacket, his buttons, even his gelled-up hair all scream "This Is The Place".

3. Finally, its the head-on organization of a subject with strabismus. It really doesn't matter who the sitter is. Photographing anyone with eye misalignment looking straight into the camera will "stop you in your tracks". You get extra credit if it's an angry-looking guy with scowl lines in his brow.

So if this reflects the intentions of Paul Heartfield I'd have to say well done.

He's a U.S. citizen now? Does that make him the "anchor punk"?

An interesting expression on his face—not your usual portrait. Well done from both sides of the camera.

All people, not just rockers, are living longer. Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts and I are both 74. Neither one of us looks like we did in the 1960s, but the musical connection is still there.

Being a celebrity for 40/50 years must be challenging. You need to keep sorta the same look, without becoming a parody of your younger self. Roger Daltrey, 71 (who didn't die before he got old), still has the highly recognizable curls, but they are a lot shorter now.

One of the nice things about growing old, is that I've stopped caring about what others think. Years ago I worked on a VW TV commercial, featuring Reggie "Mr October" Jackson. He hits the ball over the right field fence, turns to the camera and says: "I drive a VW Rabbit, because the only person I have to impress is me." Words to live by—keep on rockin'.

Since we're the same age (and former fan), I rather just concentrate on the image.

Rust Never Sleeps.

Did you miss the link?


I'm sorry, but this is so similar, conceptually, to this here selfportrait, I just can't stop myself from spamming. Sorry. I know I'm no Johnny Rotten, but still...

It's a great portrait but in response to Kenneth Wajda, John Lydon "usually" looks like this in portraits of him, so I'm not surprised by the look - "oh look, it's johnny rotten scowling again". However, if I'd never seen him before I would certainly be arrested by this remarkable picture.

Kenneth- My first and only year in photo school, an art history professor asked me my major and said she saw this great photo exhibit on celebrities. "Only problem with that," I replied, "is that you don't know if you're responding to the photograph, or the celebrity." All the while pondering why I was paying her.

Must disagree on this one though, it's the lighting, strong angular face, and distinctive backdrop that drew me in and held my attention- only then did I recognize who it was.

"It's interesting though if that were Johnny Not-So-Bad, we wouldn't even look at it because he's not well known."

I disagree.

Assuming Johnny Not-So-Bad has the John Lydon stare then we would look at it.

He was infamous for it back in 1976 (see him use it, for example, at the end of his performance on Tony Wilson's So It Goes (show 9 -- you'll find it on YouTube).

The other thing I see in this picture is the triangular shape of Lydon (very Renaissance painting composition, no?) embedded in the circle reminds me of the A-in-a-circle Anarchist symbol. A reference back to Anarchy in the UK, perhaps?

On the other hand I wonder what 1976 Lydon would have made of 2015 Lydon being a US citizen. He explains why in this interview (which includes the shot above) published a couple of days ago.


A great portrait, for sure, but being someone who loved "Silly Thing" and "Anarchy in the UK" in my teens, it makes me feel very old.

@Kenneth: I take your point that photos of a celebrity get more traction, but even though I had no idea who this Johnny Rotten is, I was immediately interested in this photo. He could have been some grouchy old guy down the street, but he would have suddenly become interesting to me because of the photo. A really good portrait can make people want to know more about the person, I think.

Hey, hey, my, my. Is this the story of Johnny Rotten? That he became an American? God save the Queen.

Johnny Rotten with a halo...bloody brilliant!

It's a beautifully done piece of work. The way the background circle dovetails with the coat collar forming an upside-down teardrop is quite exquisite.

I suppose part of its appeal is the care and attention given to the portrait of a bloke who is not that attractive - though not exactly lacking in character.

Guess it would've helped if I remembered to write that the esteemed professor's reply was, "I never thought of that."


This is Johnny Rotten as he always wants to be depicted. I thought the comment someone said earlier is very true. He looks like an actor playing a role, his role is "enfant terrible" or presumably now "pere" or "grand-pere terrible". Surely one of the most ornery "rock personalities" there is? Sometimes ornery is good, but I don't find it so in his case,: but then I was never a punk. He may have some positive attributes, but I have no idea what they are really, as he spends most of his time trying to disguise them. He rivals Ginger Baker in "the most unpleasant man in music" stakes, but without the latter's undeniable talent. The portrait's good, but JR's 10 minutes of fame is really up. I, too, find it ironic, that he is a US citizen.

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