Twenty five years after the passing of Stiv Bators, a Cleveland gallery created an exhibition of never before seen photos of the city’s very own punk legend, as well as images of The Dead Boys
Photographed by Dave Treat, Stiv’s neighbor and close friend in 1976 – the negatives sat in a closet for nearly forty years before being brought to the attention of art historian Brittany Mariel Hudak & photographer/gallerist Bryon Miller, who co-curated the show.
The exhibition’s opening was timed with the 25th anniversary of Bator’s untimely death in Paris, and offers a rare glimpse of Stiv & the boys before they had a bass player, before New York City, before CBGBs, before punk rock fame.
I was contacted by Brittany Hudak, an employee of Blue Arrow Records (bluearrowrecords.com), a local record store located across the street from my gallery on Waterloo Road. A customer of theirs had brought in a bunch of negatives of Stiv Bators and the Dead Boys and was looking to do something with them. All the images were shot by Dave Treat back in 1976. He was a neighbor and friend of the band. At the time Dave was attending the now defunct Cooper School of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, and used Stiv for a school project he was shooting. He kept the negatives stored away in a closet for nearly 40 years before bringing them to light.
Could you tell us about the process from discovery to final exhibition?
We had 8 rolls of negatives to choose from. If we had more time and wall space I’m sure a lot more would have made it into the exhibit. Since the film had been sitting for almost 40 years I had to go ahead and carefully clean them all. Then I went on to make contact sheets of each roll. From those contact sheets we went on to choose the final images for the show. Then I went into the darkroom. It took about 2 weeks to print the show. I used a Beseler 23c enlarger with an Aristo cold light head. I then went ahead and selenium toned each print before framing. This is a once in a lifetime thing, ya know? I grew up loving the Dead Boys. We also went ahead and produced a limited edition book of the exhibit.
Why do you think people are still interested in Stiv Bators and The Dead Boys?
Who knows, I mean why do people like chocolate? Because it’s good. I think he was such an over the top personality that you couldn’t help but to notice him. He was cut from a different mold and was able to catch lighting in a bottle. I have no doubt that if he was still around he’d still be creating great music.
What is your personal relationship to Stiv Bators like as a curator, but also as a fan?
I think I’ve learned so much more about Stiv and the Dead Boys than I ever thought possible. It’s been quite an amazing experience. I’ve had so many different people come through the gallery that knew him and the band in different ways. I mean how often do you stumble upon such an amazing thing like this. It’s been quite the education indeed. Even when I was in the darkroom printing the show, I couldn’t help but think to myself “hey, this is a piece of punk rock history you’re touching right here”. It’s been quite humbling at the same time as it’s been exciting.
Why is it important to show these photos for the first time in Cleveland rather than in New York?
I think these photos represent Stiv and The Dead Boys in a moment just before it all happened for them; before they had a bass player, before New York City, before CBGBs, before punk rock fame. It stared here in Cleveland, so it seemed appropriate that the show should be held here….where it all began.
A catalogue of the images can ve requested by emailing this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
From Dave Treat (photographer)-
“It all started when I was studying photography at Cooper School of Art in Cleveland, Ohio. I moved into an apartment in Lakewood , Ohio in 1975. Soon after Stiv moved in the same building, and we soon became friends. One semester I had to use one subject only for a portfolio and Stiv agreed to be my subject.
This exhibit is the result of those photos. Later Stiv would ask if I could shoot a promo photo of the Dead Boys, and we spent an entire day shooting in downtown Cleveland. The final promo photo was published in The Rock Scene Magazine in May of 1977 and became the template for their first album cover Young, Loud and Snotty. So last year I was was speaking to the owner of Blue Arrow Records, Pete Gulyas and behind the counter was a promo photo of Stiv. I explained to Pete the story of how Stiv and I were friends and the photos I took of him and The Dead Boys.
A few months later I took the the negatives and contact sheets I had to show Pete. He was impressed with them and put me in touch with Bryon Miller who owns and operates Gallery 160. Bryon is a photographer himself and still prints tradition black and white in the darkroom. Things fell into place, and the rest is history.”