Alum Roberta Bayley Photographed New York's Legendary 1970s Punk Scene

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

VICE -- In the 45 years since CBGB’s opened its doors on the Bowery, the club’s legend has hardly faded from memory. Perhaps this is thanks to the many iconic photographs, often taken by Roberta Bayley and David Godlis, that seem to suspend New York’s punk scene in time — like that of a young Patti Smith smoking a cigarette between sets or the Ramones crouched in an alley outside.

Chances are if you walked into CBGB’s between 1975 and 1978, you’d be greeted by Roberta, seated at her post by the door where she’d collect the $3 admission. Occasionally, she’d pop back and take a few photos of her friends performing — like Richard Hell with his Heartbreakers, Talking Heads, or Blondie — often to print in Punk Magazine, where she was the chief photographer.

“I took a few classes in high school, when I was 15 or 16, and learned about developing in my own darkroom and printing. I was fooling around with taking pictures, but it wasn’t a serious thing and I didn’t study it,” Bayley says. “I went to college at San Francisco State and the photography department was really popular. Everyone wanted to be a photographer.

“From the beginning, I started selling photos for almost no money. I didn’t see the point of taking pictures that I couldn’t sell, which was stupid in a way. Now, I could kill myself because I should’ve taken like ten thousand more pictures, especially in certain situations. I did a fair amount with Blondie, just because they were easy to photograph and I traveled with them.”