Out of Step: Gaining an edge

Young Blood takes a pulse on the 'straight edge' scene

Say "straight edge" and a certain kind of person may come to mind: cool, copiously tattooed with some involvement in the punk and hardcore music scene.

Former Atlanta- and now New York-based photographer Raymond McCrea Jones' mission in Out of Step: Faces of Straight Edge at Young Blood Gallery is clearly to broaden our conception of what straight edge means. A loosely defined lifestyle organized around abstinence from casual sex, drugs and alcohol, the credo also advocates for environmental issues and abstinence from meat and dairy consumption. Jones' carefully composed black-and-white photographs share certain affinities; most of his subjects stare straight at the camera in an expression that begins to feel laced with a component of defensiveness and perhaps even a hint of pathos. The title of the show, from the Minor Threat song that crystallized the movement, gives a sense of just how far apart from the norm these men and women can be, despite an array of occupations and lifestyles that resist easy compartmentalization.

There is often, when a group of people decides to separate themselves from the culture, a feeling of a painful or difficult back story to that separation. A Philadelphia graphic artist, for instance, wears a messenger bag whose illustration of a black sheep fleeing a white herd amplifies his difference, even as his back turned to the camera echoes his turn away from the culture at large.

The subjects in Jones' photographs range from twentysomethings to middle-aged. They range from sex workers (a challenge, undoubtedly, for the no-casual-sex aspect of the straight-edge creed) to the 30-year-old rockabilly newlyweds from Philadelphia shown on their wedding day throwing looks of utter adoration at each other. The movement appears to enfold a surprising array of lifestyles, from the expected musicians, Rastafarians, self-described metal heads and indie artists to a soldier, a Christian artist, a North Carolina policeman and a 47-year-old art teacher. Some fit the alternative-lifestyle profile in spades, like John Pettibone, a 34-year-old Seattle man whose sinewy arms are roped in tattoos and who describes his occupation as "Growler/Head Walker." But Jones' talent is for enlarging preconceptions in his documentary photography, and allowing viewers to see what lies beyond easy stereotype.

Out of Step: Faces of Straight Edge. Through Oct. 28. Wed. and Fri, noon-6 p.m.; Thurs., noon-7 p.m; Fri. and Sat., noon-5 p.m. Young Blood Gallery, 629 Glenwood Ave. 404-627-0393. www.youngbloodgallery.com.

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