We are delighted to present a collection of post-Pistols-pre-PIL-period photographs taken in London by Paris-based photographer Pierre Benain.
From the early age of seventeen, Pierre Benain had been writing and photographing for French music magazine Rock & Folk. On his frequent visits to London he discovered Malcom McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shop Too Fast to Live too young to die, which later became SEX. Soon after, as a contributor to Rock News, Benain was introduced to Malcolm McLaren, and was asked to promote a Sex Pistols gig for the re-opening night of the Châlet du lac club, in the Bois de Vincennes, on the outskirt of Paris. The Sex Pistols played on 3 September 1976 in front of a mixed crowd including the usual regular customers and the Bromley contingent with Siouxsie Sioux, Billy Idol, etc—an explosive combination.
Pierre became friends with McLaren and the Pistols during their Parisian stay, and would meet up with them whenever he was in London.
A few months after the Sex Pistols split, in April 1978, Benain is asked to write a portrait of Johnny Rotten for French Magazine Actuel. In London, Rotten invites him to his house in Gunter Grove. After a few hours, Rotten invites him to hang around for a few beers and to come back the day after. This turns into a three-day stay, during which various founder members of the London punk scene come by, including Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, Poly Styrene and Don Letts.
Pierre takes pictures of everyone over those three days, and records hours of interviews with John, sadly now lost. In October 1978, when Nancy Spungen was stabbed in the room she was sharing with Sid Vicious at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, two pictures from Benain’s London session, showing Sid Vicious playing with a knife and holding it under his girlfriend’s throat, became worldwide scoops and were published in Stern, on the cover of the Daily Mirror, in Paris-Match and many other publications worldwide.
This is the first time that these mainly unpublished photographs have been the subject of a gallery exhibition in the UK. The exhibition also includes a very rare original Sex Pistols poster from their first concert in Paris in 1976.