Interview: Ku Khanh on Two Punk Girls

published on 26 November 2013

Ku Khanh recalls the circumstances around his famous shot of two punk girls with a leash.

Ku Khanh recalls the circumstances around his famous shot of two punk girls with a leash.

'Punks in London', 1977

Nick Knight: First things first, thank you very much for sending your photograph to put in our Punk exhibition. It is a favourite photo amongst all the photos from punk. If you could describe to me the moment when you took this photo. The moment just before, just after? What was it like?

Ku Khanh: Okay well firstly, I was living in World’s End, just behind Vivienne and Malcolm’s boutique...

NK: Ok so you were well situated…

KK: I lived at 1 Camera Place. [Laughter]  And because during those years, I lived in London during the seventies and I sought the company of fashion editors, Norma Moriceau and Caroline Baker.  During this time I was going to concerts. I often went to the Sex Pistols and to concerts at Notting Hill Gate.  And we decided with Norma Moriceau to do a story. I bought a Balcar, and at the entrance of the theatre where the concert was taking place I put my Balcar — my flash — and I made all the people that came in pose in front of the wall at the entrance.

NK: Okay.  And these two girls in the photograph: can you describe this moment to me? Were they talking a lot? What were they saying?

KK:  They were especially excited to go to the concert. And the first thing Norma would ask them is if they wanted to pose, and I would take one photo.

NK: Really?

KK:  Yes, didn’t even use three rolls of film. Five or six rolls, that’s all. Because it happened very quickly.  And I didn’t ask them to pose… naturally they were having fun together … and they decided themselves to have an attitude.

NK:  One of the girls has the other on a lead, you never see that these days.  Was that very normal then?

KK: It was their attitude. It was their dress code, you know.  To be very different from any other people.

NK:  And can you tell me — can you describe — what would you be hearing?

KK:  No, because it was so fast, and so quick. It was just… well, they were just asking what they should do, or whatever.  And for me, no matter what, it was fine with me. It was their attitude I was looking for.

NK: It has become one of the most famous photographs, one of the most well known pictures of punk fans from that time. Have they ever contacted you? Have they ever written to you or approached you?

KK:  The thing is, right after that concert, I did the print and I came back to London and Terry Jones said to me that he wanted to use my photo because he was doing a book on punk. That’s how the whole thing went.

NK: And since then, the two girls have never contacted you? Never phoned you?

KK: No. At the time, I never thought to use my pictures. For me... I didn’t want to do a business out of that.  But the only person who called me was Julien Temple.

NK: Oh really?

KK: Yes.  Because I filmed the concerts in Super 8. I gave everything to Julien Temple. He made a film Rock and Roll… I can’t remember the title.

NK: He did The Filth and the Fury, which is the best film on punk.

KK: I can no longer remember the name of the film. In one night, I photographed punks and that became a book. And I was filming in Super 8, and Julien Temple asked me if he could have them. That’s all.

NK: For me, this remains one of my favourite images of this era. For you, does this remain a profound memory? Or a light memory? Is this an important moment in your life, or…?

KK:  It was incredible. Exceptional.

NK:  So were you a photographer during this time, or just a guy with a camera?

KK: Yes — I took photographs. I worked all over with the magazine 19, and with Cosmopolitan and Vogue UK. Because, during this time, it was simple...

NK: ...there wasn’t a lot of choice.

KK:  Exactly.  I remember the name of the film: The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle. That was the film by Julien Temple.

NK:  Exactly, that’s it. Okay, so I have to contact Julien Temple and ask him, I need to see his film.

KK: It’s available on DVD now, but he made a film that lasts about an hour and a half. I gave all the rushes to him and he just took a few bits of them.

NK: Are you coming to London?

KK: I’m coming the beginning of October.

NK:  Perhaps we’ll see you at SHOWstudio?

KK: Yes…

NK: A cup of tea together?

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