Fred Perry x
Art Comes First

JULY 2020

Words by Harris Elliott, Sam Lambert & Shaka Maidoh
Photos by Dave Hendley

Inspired by photographer Dave Hendley who captured the spirit of rudeboy culture in Jamaica and the UK in 1977-1978, the Art Comes First duo look to his images of young men, each with their own unique sense of style.

I knew of Dave’s work many years before I knew of the man who was responsible for what are often revered as iconic music portraits, and seminal reggae compilation albums.

Dave ‘Rebel Music’ Hendley was a pioneer for Jamaican music and culture. Through his camera lens and the records he made via Trojan Records, he was able to help introduce this powerful culture to Britain. Dave was a visual broadcaster with a catalogue of visceral images of many Jamaican reggae artists who hold legendary status. Dennis Brown, Gregory Issacs, Burning Spear, Bim Sherman, Errol Dunkley, Marcia Griffiths, Lee Scratch Perry, this list goes on and on, getting better with each name that is indelible with the sound.

When I look at Dave’s work, it feels like he is a photographic DJ in the middle of a sound clash, each shot fired feels more like an unreleased dub plate rather than just a photograph. His signature style reflecting a oneness, an affinity that he clearly had with the culture and his subjects. Dave created numerous intimate and majestic portraits but often with an off-the-cuff feeling. He travelled to Jamaica many times in the late 1970s. He visited places that your average visitor to the island would never dare set foot in. This was downtown Kingston, raw Jamaica, an area that he clearly adored as it was home to many of the recording artists whose music he respected. It was here that Dave started creating some of his timeless images of these rudies and post rocker artists.

Very rarely to be seen without a trusty Leica in his possession, the warmth and power of his portraits encourage you to smile, whilst also challenging you. Dave worked at the reggae label Trojan Records as an A&R man and also launched his own label imprint, Sufferers Heights. He was a lecturer at Central Saint Martins, and a journalist for Blues and Soul, the magazine that enabled him to reintroduce the joy and strength of reggae to the UK. Dave Hendley was one of the original multi-taskers, decades before that term even existed. Sadly, he passed away in 2016.

Art Comes First have an affinity with the attitude that runs through these images, the music and the culture. Sam and Shaka have dug deep in Hendley’s photographic crate to curate an original edit of his work. A fitting tribute to an ‘artical don’, a pioneer of the words, sound and power of the culture, giving a wider perspective to his fans and newcomers alike.

- Words by Harris Elliott

We love it when a piece has a lot of story to tell, so we can bring it to the modern day - so it can live in the future. With the Fred Perry archive, it’s like we are kids in a candy store. There is so much culture in those pieces that link to so many people. We feel very honoured and so inspired to work together.

The pieces we picked remind us so much of the images of British photographer Dave Hendley. He captured Jamaica/UK rebel music in 1977-1978. It’s what we call the rudeboy movement, documented.

Many of the Fred Perry archive pieces didn’t feel like clothing to us, they felt more like characters from Mr Hendley’s pictures, and that inspired us for days. We’re very proud just to be able to continue telling that same story you see documented in those pictures through clothing.

Rudeboy culture is being reinterpreted today by many young artists, it’s all thanks to the brands, music and art of what people did back then, still resonating with all of us today. Once rudeboy you will always be rudeboy.

We feel like we are the storytellers of our generation and having Fred Perry as the engine, we feel like it can only walk miles - it’s a worldwide movement. You know how the saying goes: “our differences & uniqueness makes us more powerful.”

Words by Sam Lambert & Shaka Maidoh (Art Comes First)