Taking on ‘Peops’


One of my favourite books from the early 2000’s was “Peops: Portraits and Stories of People” by the artist and author Fly. This morning I had the experience, not unusual for me, of realizing the book was no longer in my library but likely in the hands or bookcase of a friend somewhere. So I searched around and was cheered to find the book available on eBay as well as on Amazon.

On the latter site I found a take-down of “Peops” (by a J W L) that was so lively and specific that I want to quote some of it here, because it brought a morning smile to my face, notwithstanding my own contrasting view:

I used to look at this book while I was staffing at an Anarchist bookstore in Philadelphia. PEOPs is a bunch of portraits of activists, punk rockers, crusties, and artists in the LES from NYC circa 2000. Each portrait is accompanied by little stories about the person on the page. Although this book is popular amongst those scenes, I really don’t think too highly of it.

#1 The artwork is terrible. Fly’s comics in the anarcho-punk newspaper Slug and Lettuce are good. She has great cartooning skills. PEOPs however, is a book of bad portraits that show her to be an artistic one trick pony. Fly’s attempts at realistic looking portraits look like something that came out of a 6th grade art class. I remember being 11 and using a smudging stick for the first time and thinking “Wow, this looks so much more realistic… It’s like magic!” Look ma, I’m an artist! … Could you imagine this woman walking around New York with a sketch pad, telling people she’s an artist, then showing them these awful drawings? Only in a place as pretentious as the Lower East Side could this happen.

#2 I’ve met bunch of the people featured in this book and I can only say a small handful of them are decent people. Other than those few, this book is a glorification of incompetant, crusty-punk screw-ups who can’t get their lives together. The majority of people featured in this book are wingnuts, losers, and dirtbags. The rest are high maintenance whiners or rich kids slumming around NYC and acting like they’re something special because they’re from the big city. The stories featured, are not that interesting. …

Generations from now this can be used as historical documentation of the types of clowns that were involved in punk rock, the anarchist scene, and the squatter movement in NYC around the turn of the millennium. …

Fly will retire a rich woman in a penthouse on the Lower East Side filled with shirtless, crusty-punk, man-servants who smell like a mixture of stale cigarettes, malt liquor, and dog feces. …

On top is one of Fly’s portraits (linked to the artist’s website) provided for your own estimation and (I do hope) gladness.

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