Exhibition / 1 Apr – 30 Apr 2019


Zara Mader

The impact of punk is still alive today. Because of its effect on the artist, she chose to do a photographic project focusing on the singer/songwriter Poly Styrene from British punk band Xray Spex. Since Poly Styrene made such a strong impression on her, Mader wanted to see if she had an influence on other women too. Her interpretation of the punk aesthetic as well as her colouring marked her out as different within the movement.

Representation is such an important thing for most people and as a mixed-race woman who is interested in punk, Poly Styrene showed the arist there were possibilities. That she could pursue a career in photography, where there are not many people who look like her. Interestingly, Styrene and Mader share the same ethnic mix: half British and half Somali.

It is easy to underestimate the impact women in music have. The experience of women in the music industry when compared to the experience of men, means that they have to work harder to be taken seriously. Poly Styrene wanted to be taken seriously and did not allow the fact she was a woman to be held against her, or to be sexualised. She was a trailblazer, a fantastic songwriter and an inspiration for many people.

The locations for the images were chosen because of their links to music. The artist felt it was important to have that context.

She is grateful to the participants of her project for coming forward and getting involved.

About Artist

Portrait of Zara Mader

Zara Mader

As a mixed race Welsh photographer and a fan of punk, my project is a response to the place Poly Styrene held in punk linking it to my position as a photographic artist in Wales. Because we share the same ethnic mix I am interested in what role of race played in the choices Poly Styrene made in successfully pursuing a career in punk, and whether social class had more of an effect on her choice of career. I am equally interested in her enduring influence on women today. Even though her colouring marked her out as different as did her choice of clothing in punk, she represents a group of the British population – being mixed race - that is growing in number, so I want to question what being British looks like.