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Jim Jocoy: Order of Appearance. Images courtesy of the artist and TBW Books

Work / Photography

Photographer Jim Jocoy’s book chronicles San Francisco’s booming 1970s music scene

During a phone call with Korean-born, California-based photographer Jim Jocoy, he tells me about a night he spent with Mick Jagger and Patti Smith after a stranger invited him to a party on New York’s subway. In light of this, it comes as no surprise that Jim’s latest book, Order of Appearance, chronicles his youthful years during San Francisco’s booming music scene in the late 1970s. Filled with snapshots of musicians applying final layers of make-up before going on stage and photos of drunken teens struggling to find their way home, Order of Appearance is a celebration of the vibrancy and dynamism of youth.

“I was born in South Korea in 1952 — I’m a war baby. My dad was an American soldier and my mum was Korean. At six years old I came to the US and had to learn how to speak English. My father gratuitously bought a house at the heart of Silicone Valley and I still live in that same house that my folks bought in 1958. Now it’s super hot real estate,” the photographer explains. From a young age, Jim found that he was “in pursuit of creativity” and his interest in photography developed organically. Picking up a camera was a way for Jim to photograph friends and capture their time spent together while training his aesthetic eye and teaching himself techniques along the way.

Order of Appearance is a visual diary of close friendships, late-night gigs and spontaneous encounters. Structured into three chapters, the book mirrors the chronology of a night out; the first part captures people getting dressed up; the second chapter is set in the heart of San Francisco’s punk venues; the third and final part depicts Jim’s friends on their way home as the evening winds down. “It is really the story of a young kid that goes to a city and is introduced to the new energy of a large metropolis. It’s distinctly a nighttime tale,” the photographer says. Jim’s impromptu, snapshot style aesthetic is what renders Order of Appearance an intimate glimpse into an era that is long gone. 

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Jim Jocoy: Order of Appearance. Images courtesy of the artist and TBW Books

When TBW Books publishers Paul Schiek and Lester Rosso first approached Jim, the photographer handed them over 500 images to look through. “I was struck by the photos they chose because they were so profoundly personal. They then managed to map a story out of them — a story I hadn’t even realised existed. I’m always very moved when I look through Order of Appearance because I see all my friends, some of whom are no longer with me,” Jim reflects. In this way, Paul and Lester have provided a creative vision which transforms Jim’s endless archive of images into a coherent narrative with a beginning, a middle and an end. Although Jim never intended to publish his images, the fact their stories continue to resonate with us is a testament to the power of the images.

“I was very aware of the simple, aesthetic principles that I adopted from photographers like Man Ray and Andy Warhol. I was also particularly inspired by the phrase ‘painting is the art of addition and photography is the art of subtraction’. When I found a near-perfect scene I wanted to shoot, I would often kick a can out of the way to clean up the picture.” Instead of turning his lens on the performers, Jim made his spectacle the everyday gig-goers and music-lovers. In so doing, Order of Appearance can be understood as a series of impressions that give the 21st century viewer an insight into the lives of San Francisco’s original punks. 

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Jim Jocoy: Order of Appearance. Images courtesy of the artist and TBW Books

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Jim Jocoy: Order of Appearance. Images courtesy of the artist and TBW Books

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Jim Jocoy: Order of Appearance. Images courtesy of the artist and TBW Books

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Jim Jocoy: Order of Appearance. Images courtesy of the artist and TBW Books

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Jim Jocoy: Order of Appearance. Images courtesy of the artist and TBW Books

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Jim Jocoy: Order of Appearance. Images courtesy of the artist and TBW Books

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Jim Jocoy: Order of Appearance. Images courtesy of the artist and TBW Books

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Jim Jocoy: Order of Appearance. Images courtesy of the artist and TBW Books

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Jim Jocoy: Order of Appearance. Images courtesy of the artist and TBW Books