Ros Williams Christian Death
Jennifer Precious Finch - Grunge Grrl
Jennifer Finch, a photographer and musician was a member of the all American 1990’s girl grunge band L7. With albums like Bricks are Heavy and Hungry for Stink they gained acclaim and international stardom. Her series of photographs featuring musicians from the Los Angeles area and an assortment of drug culture scenarios cover a period starting from when she was twelve years old.
(What follows is a phone conversation)
Kofi Forson: Hello Precious…Kofi from Whitehot. I was surprised to note that you’re mentioned as photographer first before musician.
Jennifer Finch: I have been shooting since I was twelve so I guess that makes sense.
KF: But L7 was such a success for you I’d think music would have come before.
JF: I got the camera as a young girl way before I started playing music.
KF: Did you hope to become the next Annie Liebovitz or something?
JF: Wasn’t thinking of a career or following anyone’s footsteps. I was interested in capturing images and I was interested in music so when I told people I was photographer they let me into their shows for free.
KF: Really…you weren’t concerned about fame?
JF: No…not at all.
Girl Kicking Herion
Eva O of the band the Super Heroines and Ron Athey Performance Artist
KF: Capturing images at a show…that must’ve been a turn-on.
JF: Not so much a turn-on as it was capturing private moments of musicians on stage.
KF: What were you concerned with...the lighting, the manic energy, action, movement…what exactly?
JF: More so the intimate moments on stage. I was 5 feet tall. Standing on stage I wasn’t a threat to anybody.
KF: Were you intimidated? Did you feel like you were a part of history?
JF: I didn’t think they were historical moments…no. These were friends of mine. I grew up in Los Angeles. I went to school with people who went on to do great things with their lives. The body of work I’m releasing isn’t commercial. These were my friends…
KF: What was life like in Los Angeles in the 80’s?
JF: People describe the music scene as punk. The punk scene was dieing out when I started shooting. My photographs of punk rock musicians reflect that. People like Gun Club or L.A. Punk X started very young. My youth scene was a second generation L.A. Hardcore which was more about suburbia and less art, more dogma and social control, certainly more violent. Most of the shows I went to were in Long Beach, El Segundo, Orange County and the San Fernando Valley.
KF: Were you aware of what was happening in New York? Was there a sense of escape to leave L.A.?
JF: Mostly not New York because I felt the scene had already died there. When I was 11 or 12 I’d see a picture of Blondie, Ramones or Johnny Thunders but all these people were much older. I was definitely moved but not inspired since I knew it wasn’t there anymore.
KF: What types of books were you reading at this time?
JF: Burroughs, Bukowski, Jack Kerouac…more marginalized edgy writers.
KF: When did playing music come into the picture?
JF: It wasn’t until a bit later. By 13 years old I’d already started running away from home hanging out with street kids. I didn’t really want to start playing until I was 17.
KF: Were you into The Runaways?
JF: Definitely, but then again they were older.
Girl with Teddy Bear
KF: Who then would you say were your musical influences?
JF: There really weren’t that many…maybe girls from the local scenes. I never grew up with the idea that I’d see a bunch of girls doing something for me to do it.
KF: The irony is that you ended up in L7.
JF: Because the thing is everybody wants you to be in an all girl band… (Laughter) When I was 18 Courtney Love and I put together a band called Sugar Babylon and that was all-girl.
KF: That 90’s sexual edge surrounding L7…where did that come from?
JF: When you get into a project and you’re in it to express yourself you don’t think about conforming to any genre or rule. L7 never thought we’d be successful the way we did. It didn’t matter to us so we had more freedom to be spontaneous. Also we were young…not to say I wouldn’t do it today. (Laughter) People responded to it. Not like we were shut down or shut out. We also did it with a sense of humor which I think is so unique for that time. Female sexuality is viewed as this male concept. We didn’t know much about female sexuality. We just did what we did. We are truly lucky we found each other.
KF: Tell me about Rock for Choice.
JF: We never set out to be role models for young girls. Donita (Sparks) and her family had always been interested in pro-rights organizations like NOW and we had always been interested in women’s rights. This was our opportunity to give back to the community.
KF: Getting back to your photography, what are the circumstances surrounding your intimate work with friends. How is that different from your photographs of musicians?
JF: The majority of my work is photographing what I thought at the point was mundane. This meant time spent doing drugs and capturing the whole process. Some of what you see in these photographs is “play”. These are girls playing. I just happen to capture them because I know how to operate a camera.
KF: There’s something raw about having fun with no intention of making art…did a part of you say you were chronicling something important?
JF: Honestly I was critical of not moving my photography forward but with the drugs I couldn’t. It however kept me in an interesting place.
KF: How do you think you’ll be remembered?
JF: My dream is to start a foundation for young women who want to go into the sciences. I almost want to become a patron.
KF: What an honor that’ll be. Patron Precious Finch…you’re a doll.
JF: Thanks so much.
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Kofi Forson is a writer, POET and PLAYWRIGHT living in NYC. His current blog is BLACK COCTEAU, a mixture of philosophy and art on modern culture.