Icon Photographer Mitchell Kearney

Mitchell Kearney

Mitchell Kearney was a teenage jazz drummer, which led to photographing local musicians. “One night in the fall of 1974, I walked into CBGB to see and photograph the Ramones. Before I could sneeze, Dee Dee barked out ‘1-2-3-4!’ and the buzz bomb of guitars, drums, and vocals which followed reset my understanding of live music forever.”

And so began Mitchell’s life as a punk rock photographer, occupying a space in front of the stage and behind the scenes at CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, the Irving Plaza, Hurrah’s, the Bottom Line, and the Bitter End. His early punk rock portraits captured this musical energy for the Aquarian Weekly, and then in and on the covers of Trouser Press magazine, with additional bylines in Rolling Stone, Punk magazine, and NME.

Through it all, Mitchell felt the edict—first set down by CBGB owner Hilly Kristal—which sums up why punk rock and these musicians stood out and have survived the test of time: “You may play only original music!” It was the best restraint possible to help him encapsulate these highly creative “moments in time.”

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