by Kara Fox

The Latin meaning of inspiration is 'to breathe into.' What is the source of this magical breath?  Who gets it? At six, Mozart wrote a complete symphony. Vincent Van Gogh painted masterpieces for most of his short and tragic life. Babe Ruth changed the face of baseball. Steven Jobs…and so many others who have changed the complexion of many aspects of our lives got it. Of course, there is no definitive answer to this mystery. Regardless of the significance of the contribution to society and culture, I question,  "How did they think of that…how could they do that???"  The iconic images of Edward Colver changed the face of  punk rock and has his own particular magical breath.

A business card reading  'sincerest sympathy' offers an invitation into the amazing world of Edward Colver…one of those rare individuals making me wonder how he got to be  who he is…astoundingly creative to the bone. His home, an authentic 1911 Craftsman, is filled with his essence.  "At the age of 18, Edward began collecting  pottery, art and furniture in the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau styles,  vinyl records numbering in the high thousands, etc. (etc. because he has no doubt collected many other things of which I'm not aware!!!)  His things appear to be an extension of how he sees the world…his unique world.  

     Darkness and death seems to be a theme for this tall trim man with kind eyes and a warm smile.  From the business card to many of the things collects. One of the first things I noticed was the order of the disorder. Everything neatly arranged.  As we sat at the table and begin talking, he explains he has been collecting Stickley furniture from the late 60's. I commented on the design of the exquisite chairs we were sitting on and he explained they are Stickley chairs designed by Harvey Ellis, embellished with designs of golden opium pots. The house is literally filled with 'stories.'

      On the table sat a book entitled Suicide, nearby, an old faded antique fan with 666 incorporated into the design.  Images of swastikas run rampant. ("a beautiful symbol before Hitler ruined it"…and, he is quick to state he is not a neo-Nazi!) A large, colorful, very dead rooster stands at attention under a glass bell, while a stuffed (dead) dog  rests peacefully in another overflowing room. Another stuffed dog waits on the pool table in the garage, no doubt to become part of something Edward will create in the future. 'Escape before I get stuffed,' did cross my mind!

         Edward allows his collecting to extend to the garden. He has created an orchestra with his multitudes of orchids, graceful bamboo and many other living things.  So peaceful…I wanted to take one of his many books and peacefully read in a corner of his verdant garden.

     Crossing the garden to a simple locked door, grants entry to the garage…another a place of wonder.  Where to look…so many visual opportunities! A large box of antique and modern wooden hangers from all over the world, at one time part of one of Edward's sculptures' sits, overflowing on the floor (occasionally serving as a Christmas tree). Of the myriad of 'things' collected, select items will be incorporated into sculptures. Since 1984 he has been creating sculptures, many socio-political in nature. Edward has so much to say with his art and he is certainly worthy of 'listening to.' So much of what I see is connected to a deeper meaning.  

     Inside, collections of rocks, branches, vases, leaves, plants, are purposefully placed as though part of a museum display.  Missing is television, which he stopped watching in 1979 because of the music connected to the commercials! His hallway is artfully lined with hundreds of stacked books. The books become their own art…arranged in a fashion that resembles a design element enhancing the wall. Framed paintings and photographs hanging, standing, leaning and stacked neatly in piles enliven each room. In the intimate kitchen, walls are lined with so many antique cooking tools that they give the impression of a unique wallpaper. In the midst of this wonderland of kitchen 'artifacts,' is an antique Wedgewood stove.  In the living room, on a table of more 'treasures' there rests a small flat glass triangle with no meaning…he just appreciated its beauty…and this is the essence of the person behind his 'things.' So many 'things,' each has meaning and most important, they are treasured  by Edward with the loving help of his wife, Karin.  

     Our conversation, in a home alive with love and appreciation for all it is and all it holds, was punctuated by the arrival of an array of rescued dogs, (in the garden, thankfully not inside, lives a  40+ pound tortoise who kept trying to get my exposed toes…and another one they are babysitting who must be shy as i never saw it). One of the dogs is named lemon because she had so many problems and for some reason I am not aware of, she is called  Grandma. The other is just plain old Jerry. These darling white Pekinese, who are not related and who were adopted at different times, each  have one piercingly black eye!!! 

     What is it that compels us to embark on our life long  journey?  It is connected to this breath of inspiration? For Edwrd Colver, his 'breath' was punk rock. From his first exposure, he began his life-long  journey as the quintessential punk rock photographer, defining the style itself…both for himself and for the culture of 'punk' in Los Angeles as well.  His images, once considered to be vintage are now more popular than when first shown. He has documented the birth of the punk culture in Los Angeles through the lens of his  camera. "I had gone to a couple of shows because of news reports that I saw about the 'music scene' going on at Madame Wong's, a nightclub that booked punk rock and New Wave bands…I immediately saw a distinction between what was New Wave and punk rock." 

He was driving all over Los Angeles from the San Gabriel Valley  for about 5 years, 5 to 7 nights a week…he was there, wherever there was, with his camera, photographing the punk rock scene over 1000 times."  Edward saw L. A.'s punk scene erupt through a small viewfinder, snapping photos, to the sound of the music, with black and white Kodak Tri-X film with a 50mm lens attached to his  35mm camera." He had no auto-focus, no light meter, no sophisticated equipment…just his talent." He "became an underground mainstay from 1978 through 1983. His images have, in many instances, lasted longer than the music itself, and his subjects are looked upon as icons of the 20th century."

    Edward is essentially self-taught.  He never took photos before the punk scene which changed his life forever. His first brief formal training was at UCLA night school. He studied the applied arts, print making, word working, design. Of his influences were Dada and Surrealism. He was most impressed by California artist, Edward Kienholz in the late 60's. (an original piece of Kienholz work is among his prized possessions) His "perspective on life and art was changed by his exposure to composers such as Edgar Varese, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Krzysztof Penderecki and John Cage.  

     Three months after his first punk photos were published he became a professional photographer thus changing the course of his life and punk rock as well. To date, he has shot close to 500 album covers some of which are  the most recognizable of the late 20th century…record jackets for bands such as Black Flag, (1981 LP, DAMAGED, showing Henry Rollins punching a mirror covered in blood!) The Circle Jerks, Social Distortion, Christian Death, T.S.O.L., Bad Religion, Aerosmith, R.E.M., The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Linkin Park. His favorite photograph is his famous "Flip Shot' of skater Chuck Burke in Pasadena, California, July 4, 1981. (this image was used on the cover of the "American Hard Core" DVD.)  Edward Colver has defined the visual identity of punk rock. 

     Edward created beautiful architectural photographs of music studios and gave this up when he could no longer buy film he liked to use. What began with an Olympus 35 mm camera morphed into this creative genius using 2 iphones and one ipad often in conjunction with his creative use of apps to turn images of his dogs, landscapes, and even trash into digital masterpieces.  From this new work comes images that look like fine paintings.  Post the punk rock work, he focused his attention in this direction.  

     He has been published in magazines for over 30 years. The art director from priority recored referred to  Edward's photo of Ice Cube as definitive. It took less than 5 minutes to take 2 polaroids and 10 black and whites with 120 film in his Mamiya camera. Colver's photographs have also been featured in several exhibitions camera.  Colver’'s photographs have also been featured in several exhibitions including "Who Shot Rock & Roll" originating in the Brooklyn Museum in 2010. The exhibit is currently at the Annenberg Space for Photography and as you enter, if you turn around and face the door you will see one of Edward's dynamic photographs.  

     In over 33 years, Edward has never advertised or solicited work.  He  assumed if the work was good enough there would be enough work…and he has had a very full career. His phone number has always been unpublished.  You can contact him at the below……this information coming directly off his sympathy/business card!

[email protected]


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