Book Review: Or Glory 21st Century Rockers – Horst A. Friedrichs

(Prestel) £19.99

Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams or-glory-cover

Throughout the pages of Horst A. Friedrichs’ photographic exploration of the Rocker subculture in the first decade of the new century, there are some wonderfully evocative juxtapositions created by the images on facing pages. One of which that particularly stands out for me is the pairing of the photographs of Kenneth, taken at The Pavilion in 2009, and Sammi at Rhythm Riot, the annual 1950s music, dancing and vintage lifestyle weekender at Pontin’s Holiday Camp at Camber Sands, also in 2009. Kenneth has a Marlboro Man look about him, his face weather-beaten and etched with the lines of many miles in the saddle, though his steeds have been two-wheeled and resonantly British marques – Royal Enfield, BSA, Norton, Triumph, and the hybrid Triton. His hair though grey and thining, is still quiffed, his sideburns long. From his lips hangs not a mass produced cigarette but a roll-up, over the fraying collar of his faded denim jacket. Rendered in grainy halftone, his portrait contrasts strikingly with the high colour, glossy image of Sammi. She is a beautiful pin-up girl with an edge, very much in the manner of an Angelique Houtkamp heroine. Everything about her is flawless and immaculate, from her curled under Bettie Page bangs, pencilled eyebrows, long, long eyelashes, and red, red lips, to her high waisted indigo denims, and short sleeved black and white striped top, showing off her Houtkamp-style tattoos.

Sammi at Rhythm Riot ©Horst A. Friedrichs

Sammi at Rhythm Riot ©Horst A. Friedrichs

The juxtaposition is both aesthetically striking and also encapsulates the strands that run through Or Glory. Though Friedrichs took all the photographs between 2001 and 2010, in the faces, the places, the clothes, and the motorcycles (to say nothing of the music that you’ll swear you can hear as you turn the pages), is the progression of a subculture from the Ton-Up Boys of the 1950s, to the Rockers of the 1960s, which then proliferated via a myriad of black leather rebel stances through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, and now in the 2000s, as Friedrichs documents, crosses over with the wide breadth of the Rockin’, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s Vintage Lifestyle, Kustom Kulture, and Burlesque, scenes, and more besides. But be they 59 club veterans, or new converts from around the world, at the core of the Rocker subculture remain the British motorcyles, the ‘A’ road landmarks of the Ace Café (lovingly restored by Mark Willsmore, who is interviewed in the book) and Jack’s Hill Café, and the Lewis Leathers jackets, which from studded, painted, bedecked in badges, and battle worn through to pristine, the pages Or Glory inherently portray 60 years of history of this iconic 118 year old British company, the owner of which, Derek Harris, is also interviewed in the book. Or Glory presents a multi-layered visual narrative that is as fascinating as it is stunning to look at.

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