This French girl's haircut and pose has made a very popular picture. The image title, the symbol, the historical reference is fascinating to many. Let me tell you now, I feel sad for Nazis, Fascists, White Supremacists, Fundamentalist and all who misguidedly associate themselves with the type of social pathology that the Swastika, in our modern world, represents. By doing so, they doing a disservice to intelligence, civilization and universal life. I oppose the illusion of differing races. I abhor any type of Nationalism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, religious exclusivity or authoritarianism. I delight in the multi-cultural experience I've gained through living in California and New York and through my travels. I've benefited greatly from my curiosity which has lead me to discover the cultures of the world through people I have befriended.
When I was a Punkrock Radio DJ in the late '70s and was able to participate in punk shows and enjoy the friendship of younger punkrockers, I met some who used the ancient Indian broken-cross symbol as appropriated and called "swastika" by Hitler. I understood the kids' use of the symbol to be an rebellious act, primarily aimed at alarming the mainstream culture. Generally, it seemed punkrockers had little historical perspective and I did not think their use was political. I thought their use would redefine the symbol's meaning for future generations. I was naive and mistaken about this.
At that time and since, many goof-ball leaders continued to gather followers through misusing this ancient and beautiful symbol, embracing the deployable racial-political ideas of German Nazis.
The picture was taken at a Rat Productions' New Year's Eve show in 10th Street Hall, San Francisco, ringing in the new year of 1981. The bands included Johnny Genocide's "No Alternative" who played in front of a wall-size Confederate flag. The girl with the hair cut was small, French and arrived late. All attention was on her entrance, the spectacle of her head design parted the awestruck crowd. She found a group of friends, who surrounded her, exclaiming, in French, their amazement and admiration for the newly created doo. It was a spectacular hair design, the scalp shaved, leaving short hair in the swastika shape dyed in square patches of orange and black, outlined with white makeup on the scalp. We all had our breath taken away.
I correctly recognized that her head was the most iconic visual of the evening. After an hour, as she passed near me on her way out, I pulled out my pocket camera, asked her, in English, for permission to photograph her. She sighed in exasperation, took a step back, brought her hand to her mouth, tilted down her head into the pose you see here. After the one shot, she continued out.
Despite the symbol's association with appalling social attitudes, disastrous politics and despicable genocidal fantasies, this picture of a hair design, a small girl's pose has remained my favorite image from my days as a punkrock photographer
photo & writing by Steve Harlow