An overcast morning in Huntington Beach, accentuated with a layer of mist from the ocean still lingering on the field in front of Ethel Dwyer Middle School, a boxy old structure perched atop a grassy mound in this coastal suburbia. Everything was gray except the lawn, which somehow retained its vibrant green. Informal clusters of students trudge towards the building we all believed was haunted, wetting the toes of our shoes as they kicked through the shards of grass. Without much build up a fight started, and it was over so quickly that a crowd had no time to gather. It was a friend of mine, Ron Hanstein. It happened so fast I can’t remember why it started or what words were exchanged, but I do remember the violence and Ron’s bloodied mouth launching red spit onto the cement as we walked into school.
Ron was punk. He had a mohawk that was usually not spiked, laying softly down the left side of his head leaving the shaved right side exposed. I was afraid of these kids, but they welcomed me into their world because I was a skater, and so I hung out with them quietly listening and learning. The next day Ron walked into school with his mohawk spiked fully erect into a great fan. I asked him how he got it so rigid and he told me, “egg whites and Knox gelatin.” Later that day he was kicked out of school for it.
Hairdos of Defiance is a look into a microcosm of a fringe world, one where individuals engage in the act of retreat or refusal as a generative form of identity-making. Eschewing perfection for style, progenitors of the punk scene adopted the radical alterations of their bodies to signify their displeasure. Offensively deviant, the Mohawk evolved as style dependent on social context and determined by the historical moment; purposely assumed, it is both a mask and an act of masking.
This new collection of photos comes from twenty years of unmediated chance encounters with individuals sporting Mohawks, beginning from Templeton’s hyper-localized backyard of Huntington Beach and throughout the U.S. and Europe. Templeton’s method of photography is a result of blending his dedication with a down-to-earth approach to his subjects, akin to collecting city space, body, and identity in the context of real estate of presence.
A traditional photo show in an inventive installation, Hairdos of Defiance sets a scene. Its resemblance to a bedroom, complete with wall wood paneling and nontraditional hanging, positions the exhibited work in the context of its natural habitat - studios, homes - to form a deeply confessional self-portrait of the objects within.