AN INTERVIEW WITH PHOTOGRAPHER MARK SAVIO-BEEMER ON KID DYNAMITE’S REUNION SHOWS

“Stealing Time,†a coffee table book of photographs, covers 13 years of DC Hardcore photographer Mark Beemer’s musical experience. With an eclectic mix of 62 bands and artists including Fugazi, Kid Dynamite, The Donnas, Ice Cube and the Get Up Kids, Beemer captures the power and beauty in each of his subjects.
All proceeds from the book go to the Syrentha Savio Endowment Fund, which
helps to pay for chemotherapy and medication for low income cancer patients. With fewer and fewer people able to afford health insurance, treatment can be an impossible expense for a growing majority of people.
“I recently had a chance to talk with Mark about his book, the recent Kid Dynamite reunion show, and the future.

TELL ME ABOUT THE SYRENTHA SAVIO ENDOWMENT FUND. IT HELPS TO PAY FOR CHEMOTHERAPY/ MEDICATION FOR UNINSURED/ LOW-INCOME CANCER PATIENTS. WITH FEWER AND FEWER PEOPLE ABLE TO AFFORD HEALTH INSURANCE, TREATMENT CAN BE AN IMPOSSIBLE EXPENSE FOR A LARGE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE. THIS WAS YOUR WIFE’S IDEA, KNOWING FIRST HAND THE INCREDIBLE COSTS FOR TREATMENT.
I started the Syrentha Savio Endowment (SSE) in February of 2002, in memory of my wife who had lost her battle with breast cancer in January. I wanted to somehow capture Syrentha’s compassionate spirit and caring nature. In life, Syrentha was always giving, and rarely taking – and I wanted that to persevere, even in her death. After some soul searching, I sat down with the people at the Lombardi Cancer Center, where Syrentha was treated, and talked to them about how best to honor her life and continue to give. And thus, the Syrentha Savio Endowment was born.

SO THE KID DYNAMITE (KD) SHOW RAISED $20,000 FOR THE ENDOWMENT OVER THE WEEKEND. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT? WAS IT YOUR IDEA? DAN’S? BOTH?
About a year ago Dan and Dave Wagenschutz (drummer for Kid Dynamite and Paint it Black) were in DC recording the Paint it Black (PIB) demo at my friend Brian McTernan’s studio Salad Days and I had sort of an epiphany – a live show to benefit the endowment. I asked the guys from PIB if they would be interested in playing a benefit show for the endowment and they both said yes. Later that year, Dan and I were working with Jade Tree Records at Krazy Fest in Louisville, KY. During some down time over the long, hot weekend, I asked Dan what he would say if I asked him to play a benefit show with a re-united Kid Dynamite. Without batting an eye, he said yes. Within a week, I had contacted each of the other members of Kid Dynamite, and by the end of August, the plan for the show was in motion – Kid Dynamite would reunite for a show to benefit SSE. Some time passed, and in mid-January, The Curse played in DC. I talked to Dave Hause and Brendan Hill (both of The Curse) about possibly opening for KD and they jumped at the opportunity, but timing was an issue; The Curse was about to call it quits. I knew I had to act quickly, so I looked at a calendar, called the four KD’ers, called Sean Agnew from R5 Productions and with in 24 hours we had the dates set; Kid Dynamite would play at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia for two shows on April 11th and 12th with The Curse and another, yet to be determined, band. Strike Anywhere jumped onboard within a week, and we had our line-up. Tickets went on sale, and after the two shows sold out in eight hours without any promotion, the decision was made to add a third show. Dave called Grey Area, I called Trial By Fire, and soon they were added to the billing. The next thing I knew, what started as a harmless question during down time at a festival in Kentucky had turned into one of the bigger hardcore events in recent memory.

I’M ASSUMING YOU MADE IT TO THE SHOW. TELL ME ABOUT IT. DID YOU TAKE SOME GREAT PICTURES?
Oh yes, I was there. As Darren from Jade Tree Records said on Monday after the shows, “There are not words to describe just how amazing these shows were as they were beyond words.†All I can add is that I have never been to an event that better represented the principle of what punk and hardcore is all about – for the kids, by the kids for an amazing cause. As for pictures, I shot 14 rolls; I guess you could say I got some good images.

SO THIS IS YOUR FIRST BOOK, TAKEN FROM 13 YEARS OF PHOTOGRAPHS. WERE MOST OF THEM TAKEN IN THE DC AREA?
Well, no. If you flip through the book you will notice there are images from all over. Since finishing high school, I have moved around a bit, living in DC, Vermont, Wisconsin, New York City, New Hampshire, and Minnesota; shooting photographs all the while. In addition, I have toured with some of the bands, giving me the opportunity to shoot them in numerous locales. So, the photographs in the book are pretty representative of the moves I have made.

WHEN DID YOU START TAKING PHOTOS AND WHO WERE SOME OF YOUR VERY FIRST SUBJECTS?
I have always been a very visual person. Even before I was interested in photography I would study photographs in books for hours, trying to figure out where the photographer was and what had happened moments before and moments after taking the shot. When I went to college I was kind of lost: no real direction. On a whim, I asked for a camera for Christmas and to my surprise I got one – a Nikon 4004s, a basic manual camera with some of Nikon’s first attempts at auto focus and exposure. While at school in Madison, WI, I stumbled upon the student run newspaper and started shooting for them. The Daily Cardinal soon became my second home. I slowly worked my way up the photography ranks, getting better shoots and more sporting events. Most of my first subjects were assigned to me – Big Ten basketball, volleyball and football; too many county councilman meetings; and anti-war demonstrations (which were in abundance as the Desert Storm conflict was raging at the time). Whether shooting for The Cardinal or for myself, I managed to photograph just about everything and anything available to me. While working at The Daily Cardinal, two seminal events occurred that would change my life: I met my wife Syrentha (my first and best subject) and I started shooting bands.

YOU COVER A FAIRLY WIDE RANGE OF MUSIC STYLES, FROM RAP TO SKA TO HARDCORE IN THE BOOK. WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES FOR AN INTERESTING SUBJECT?
That my early work is an eclectic mix of bands would be an understatement. You have to understand, though, that in the beginning, I shot whatever I was offered. Going to school in Madison does not lend itself to having the opportunity to see, let alone shoot, lots of hardcore shows. So, whenever I was offered a photo pass to shoot, say, an Ice Cube or Anthrax show, I would take it; no matter the band. Once I moved to NYC, I was able to focus more on hardcore music and making a name for myself.

ANY STORIES ATTACHED TO PARTICULAR PHOTOS THAT STAND OUT?
Right before I took the photograph of Ice Cube, I stepped on his bodyguard’s foot. He was not too pleased and looked like he was going to pounce. Fortunately for me, Cube was just about to hit the stage so the bodyguard had to go shield Cube as he ran from his dressing room to the stage.

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS? ANY MORE BOOKS?
For now, I plan to concentrate on the endowment and raising money for breast cancer treatment. I would like to see SSE continue to grow, increasing our capacity to assist those in need, both in and outside of the Lombardi Center. My goal in establishing SSE was to create a mechanism that would allow Syrentha’s humanity to continue to touch people, even in her death. I would like to work towards a time when the reach of SSE is nationwide and women and their families across the country can benefit from what we have to offer. As of now, I do not have any plans to publish another book in the near future. But who knows?

THERE ARE SOME UPCOMING EVENTS LIKE THE RACE FOR THE CURE IN NEW YORK ON SEPTEMBER 14TH AND IN SAN FRANCISCO ON SEPTEMBER 7TH. ARE THERE OTHER WAYS PEOPLE CAN GET INVOLVED?
Our next big push will be for the National Race for the Cure in Washington, DC on June 7th of this year. It’s a great way to get our name out and for people to take notice. It is also a lot of fun. Last year we had over 140 team members and we would like to break 200 this year. We also plan to walk in many other RFTC’s around the country, including NYC and San Francisco. In addition, we are planning an event in Orange County with Thrice to correspond with the RFTC there.

To learn more about our organization or to join us for any of the RFTC’s and to see how you can get involved in future events please visit www.syrentha.org.

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