Danny Fields' best photograph: the Ramones prowl round the US supreme court

‘Hey, it’s Washington! Let’s run around!’

I became the Ramones’ manager after seeing them at CBGB in New York. From the opening downstroke of the guitar, I loved them. When I met them afterwards, they asked if I would write about them. I said: “More than that, I want to manage you.” I started taking photos of them when they were making their first album. If the manager has done a good job there’s nothing to do once the band gets to the studio except let her bang, so I took a camera along, thinking I could record moments that might be considered candid. They realised that even if I took pictures of them drooling, I wasn’t going to use them – as their manager, I wasn’t going to do anything to damage their career.

What made them good to photograph was the same thing that made them good on stage: presentation. They were intuitive. The first time I saw them live, the presentation was perfect – the clothes, the hair, the architecture of the set. They knew how to do it and they’d figured it out themselves. They weren’t puppets. When rock’n’roll wants to come out, it comes out of every pore, and they had that.

This was taken in November 1976. Jimmy Carter had been elected president, Gerald Ford had lost. The Ramones had a show at the Cellar Door club in Washington and we had a free afternoon. I said: “Let’s walk around and take some pictures.” There are good backgrounds in Washington and I shot four rolls of film. This was taken in front of the United States supreme court. There was no one there, though. This was pre-bag search. I imagine now it would be swarming with police.

They went up the steps and came down towards me, as I walked backwards to get the building in. The word irony is overused, but you can’t overuse it with the Ramones because everything with them is ironic. And the irony here is these four leather-clad kids – who have come from a particular kind of rock’n’roll known as punk rock – strolling around the supreme court, which is inviolate.

This is kind of a behind-the-scenes picture: what do you do on an afternoon – between waking up and doing the soundcheck – in a place you’ve never played? Hey, it’s Washington, it’s a hilarious-looking place – let’s run around! The picture on the inner sleeve of Leave Home, the band’s second album, shows them outside the White House. That was taken on the same day.

When I shot them I liked to surround them with things, otherwise it’s the same four people over and over. After a while, it became about getting them in a crowd, or in front of a building. This day was grey and overcast, so there was no horrible sunshine. There are photographers who can do miracles with sunlight on a dappled field, but it’s not good for people.

Danny Fields’ CV

Born New York City, 1939.

Danny Fields
Danny Fields Photograph: pr

Training “My father bought a Russian counterfeit Leica. He was a doctor and had an x-ray machine and an enlarger, so I was able to print my own pictures from my box Brownie.”

Influences “Gloria Stavers, the editor of 16 magazine, knew how boys should look and I was an apprentice to her.”

High point “My pictures of [the painter] Duncan Hannah, because they perfectly captured what it was like to be a beautiful boy in the 1970s.”

Low point: “When Kodachrome and Polaroid stopped. How dare they?”

Top tip “If your photos are going to be seen by anyone else, get an editor.”

Contributor

Interview by Michael Hann

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Chris Floyd's best photograph: the Verve meet Dorothy, the Tin Man and Scarecrow
‘I was following the band round Vegas for a week and we ended up in this tacky casino with a Land of Oz in its foyer. Richard’s not afraid to ham things up’

Interview by Dale Berning Sawa

31, Jan, 2018 @1:59 PM

Article image
Visage outside Blitz nightclub … Sheila Rock’s best photograph
‘Blitz was where all the New Romantics hung out. If you didn’t look good, you didn’t get in. Steve Strange is at the front of the shot – with big hair’

Interview by Graeme Green

24, Aug, 2022 @3:11 PM

Article image
JJ Gonson's best photograph: a smile from Elliott Smith
‘There was this cult of personality around him – the dark, tortured figure – but this shows the tip of the hat, the sideways glance: that’s the actual person’

Interview by Daniel Dylan Wray

26, Aug, 2020 @1:39 PM

Article image
Rihanna mobbed in Paris: Dennis Leupold's best photograph
‘A huge crowd surrounded the car. It was quite eerie, almost scary. Even for her that moment was crazy’

Interview by Tim Jonze

24, Oct, 2019 @5:01 AM

Article image
Neal Preston's best photograph: Robert Plant catches a dove
‘I was Led Zeppelin’s tour photographer. The dove landed on Robert’s hand. Nobody else could have pulled it off without looking pretentious’

Interview by Tim Jonze

04, Oct, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
Michael E Northrup's best photograph: his wife Pam lactating
‘She could squirt breast milk eight feet. After our 10th year together, I noticed she was really starting to tire of posing for me’

Interview by Amy Fleming

10, May, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
John Ingledew's best photograph: how Gazza's tears changed football
‘Football was quite unfashionable in the 70s and 80s. You could be on the dole and still go to a game. Then suddenly Gazza cried and everybody was interested’

Interview by Tim Jonze

28, Mar, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
Carla Kogelman's best photograph: children playing on a swing
‘They’re in their own world and don’t see me. It’s a nostalgic image, with a touch of magic from those disembodied feet and hands’

Interview by Dale Berning Sawa

17, Jan, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
The world in one park: Irina Rozovsky's best photograph
‘If you’re standing still on a New York street, you’re either lost or crazy. But on the shores of this lake, I saw real stillness for the first time’

Interview by Diane Smyth

24, Feb, 2021 @4:30 PM

Article image
Alys Tomlinson's best photograph: a volunteer on pilgrimage to Lourdes
‘We ended up at a raucous party, drinking with the Order of Malta. That’s where we met Markus, who was caring for an Austrian man in a wheelchair’

Interview by Dale Berning Sawa

04, Apr, 2019 @5:00 AM