San Francisco Punk Photographer Ruby Ray Launches New Book at City Lights

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Ruby Ray photographed Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious backstage at the Mabuhay Gardens. (Ruby Ray)

The San Francisco punk scene of the late 1970s is perhaps remembered almost as well by its imagery and as by its recordings: Crime frontman Johnny Strike’s gaunt mug against the wall at Powell Street BART station, or Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious splayed backstage at the Mabuhay Gardens on the cusp of his group’s dissolution. The latter photograph is by Ruby Ray, who chronicled the scene as a staffer at the groundbreaking fanzine Search & Destroy.

Ray is among the first-wave San Francisco punk photographers to attract renewed interest and publication in recent years. In 2009, she showed prints at the San Francisco Public Library, gaining the attention of archival record label Super Viaduct, which published her first book, From the Edge of the World, in 2013. In the book's introduction, English rock critic Jon Savage called Ray’s photos “a record of a lost moment that is finally receiving the attention it was always due.”

Kalifornia Kool: Photographs 1976-1982, recently published by Swedish writer Carl Abrahamsson via Trapart, collects many of the same photographs as Ray’s earlier, out-of-print volume, but this hardbound, 200-page book also features unseen material. Abrahamsson and V. Vale, the Search & Destroy publisher who gave Ray her first photo assignment (The Dils, who she photographed on a pile of rubble), wrote introductions.

Ray launches the book Thursday, March 28, at 7pm at City Lights Bookstore in North Beach.