Photographs by Jennifer Greenburg, with essays by Bruce Berenson and Dick Hebdige.
Center for American Places, Chicago, 2009. 96 pp., 45 color illustrations, 9½x9".
Signed copies available!
Elvis Presley. Pompadours. Black-and-white creeper shoes. Cuffed jeans. And a little bit of James Dean rebellion. These are just some of the ingredients of the modern Rockabilly style. Despite being generations removed from the original Rockabillies of the 1950s, today’s Rockabilly subculture has adopted the look—the slick-backed hair or the Betty Paige bangs—and the sound—from Carl Perkins to Buddy Holly—of mid-twentieth century American youth culture.
In Rockabillies, photographer Jennifer Greenburg offers a visual tour of a unique global subculture and her own place within it. The individuals her photographs capture are examples of the rockabilly scene, having fully embraced the aesthetic values of teens in the 1950s. What intrigues Greenburg is that these contemporary Rockabillies choose to overlook the social and political realities of the time period they adore and emulate. The subculture today has become a hybrid of texts and images—frequently taken out of context—from an era that saw race riots, cultural upheaval, and little hope for middle-class advancement. Few, if any, members of the Rockabilly culture would actually want to live in the post-war era; rather, the imagery and ideals have been adapted to serve a wistful interpretation of that time. As well, contemporary Rockabillies are not interested in historic preservation, but its members rarely stray from established fashion archetypes.
Through her photographs, Greenburg brings light to this unusual subculture and investigates its contradictory relationship to the American past.