Photographer Spotlight: Justin Moulder

Justin stage diving at a 108 show at First Unitarian Church, 2005. (Photo: Jeff Lasich)

Justin Moulder is one of those people who reminds me why I love the hardcore community I grew up in so much. A fellow native East Coaster, Justin has close ties to both the bands and peripheral figures that came up in the '80s and '90s hardcore scene. He's someone I chat with on a regular basis, especially when I'm looking for some kind of information clarity when I'm working on a retrospective piece for the site. The guy remembers everything!

In addition to his knowledge on all-things core, Justin also documented many of the shows he attended throughout the years via his camera.

Today, we take a look through some of Justin's photos and get to know more about the guy behind the lens.

Where were you born and raised, and were your parents into the arts?

I was born and raised on the Main Line (Philadelphia suburbs). They were both painters but once my brother, sister and I came along I reckon there was no time for that. After we were born, my parents were really into music more than art I guess? We were raised on a steady diet of the Beatles, the Motown classics, and a lot of Sam Cooke. I could not be more thankful for that.

Undertow @ Josh Grabelle's basement, Tinton Falls, NJ, 1994. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

Later, as a family, we got into Duran Duran. Which is where my musical journey started. Around the same time, my mom stuck a Kodak Brownie camera in my tiny little hands… We never had a lot of money, and being on the Mainline, with no money in the '80s was rough. Our clothes were hand-me-downs and we had 7 Yorkies, which lead to a filthy/stinky house. As a result, my up brining was not traditional but I made it out... I mean, our parents worked hard but really not into being parents, it never came naturally to them.

That’s probably why they got divorced in the early '80s and my mom got back into painting. She was drinking a ton then. Got a few DUIs which as a former cop made her a bit of a pariah on the mainline and it was the '80s so it was all about trickle down effect so lucky me! I became a straight edge kid! I’ve made peace with my parents life choices and know I can do better as a parent then they did.  

Echobelly @ JC Dobbs, 

What came first, your love for music, or your love for photography?

Music came first. I mean, music was much more accessible then film was (and cheaper too). I was buying records for myself at Sears by the time I was 7. The first record I remember buying Supertramp’s Breakfast in America and some of those old K-Tel compilation records. I still have some of that vinyl at my dad’s house. I always listed to the Dazz Band and Gap Band. I wore those records out! Maybe the divebombs on “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” was why I initially liked Earth Crisis so much?

Our mother was a auxiliary police woman (the first in our town) and she would work, directing traffic at the Valley Forge Music Fair when we were kids. I got to see a ton of bands in the '70s. Three Dog Night, Franky Valley, Mac Davis (with Dom Delouse!), Sha Na Na, Captain Hook…. Those are the ones I remember, anyway. I was lucky in that respect.

Token Entry @ Unisound, Reading, PA, 1989. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

My love for photography came from my frustration not being able to draw or paint as well as my parents. I wanted to channel my artistic ability into something and cameras, just fit the bill. I started with a Brownie Camera, had 110’s, early Polaroid’s came next, then a Disc Camera (remember those?).

Zero Tolerance @ Unicorn Club, Milwaukee, WI, 1991. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

In the late 80’s I got my first of a few 35mm point and shoot cameras. I used them from about ’89-93 to shoot shows. Me, Dave Mandel [Indecision Records], Eric Z., and [David] Sine [Tidbit Fanzine] used them and did pretty fucking well with it.

Turning Point @ Chameleon Club, Lancaster, PA, 1990. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

What was your first musical love?

I loved the Beatles, James Brown, Supremes, Queen, and David Bowie as a kid. My love of Bowie pushed me to like Duran Duran and that’s when my love for music really took off. I heard about them from reading my sisters' magazines. Probably Tiger Beat and stuff like that? Anyway, I absorbed all I could. I tracked down all the 12”s I could buy from "Planet Earth" through "New Moon on Monday"…. I was relentlessly made fun of at school for it. I was told: “They’re a band for girls, you can’t like them.”

I was called things I dare not say in this day and age too.. It bothered me, but never stopped me from digging in deeper. I was in 5th grade and got my left ear pierced and that was it. I was labeled a “freak”, and “he must be gay." I said fuck them I will be who I want and never looked back. I was able to see Duran Duran on the Seven and the Ragged Tiger Tour (it was awesome) and later saw OMD open for the Power Station, on their first tour in 1985. That marks the only time in my life I got a contact high. Fucking hated it. I mean, I was 13!

Duran Duran @ The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA, 1985. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

Who were some of the photographers you looked up to during your formative years? 

I really loved what Dave Sine, Dave Mandel, and Mikey Fastbreak were doing in the late '80s. I mean, early on, I didn’t have much of a reference point to go on when I started shooting at shows. I really like the GSD, BK, Grant Brittan, and Mofo, I was a skater first. Those dudes got it and I wanted to figure out how to use what they captured in skate flix but at hardcore shows. I didn’t have a huge reference point then I mean, I was at the mercy of whatever I could find at Repo Records and Plastic Fantastic.

Handsome @ First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia, PA, mid-'90s. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

Which era of hardcore do you hold closest to your heart and why?

It would have to be 87-94. They were my formative hardcore years. I went to my first show in early 1986. It was McRad, Homo Picnic, Follow Fashion Monkeys, and Trained Attack Dogs and never looked back. I started shooting shows around 1989, by then I was going to shows every weekend with my friends. I formed lasting friendships outside shows and diving on the heads of my friends. Most people think that’s weird. I think it's awesome.

Sean McGrath (Mouthpiece) and Justin @ Chamber of Sound, mid-'90s.

The time I spent sweating on and with my friends, I wouldn’t trade for anything. Though, I would like some of my old shirts and records back. I guess the music of our teens to early 20s always is the best, no matter who you are.  

Here's a video by my homey [graphic designer] Jeremy Dean of one of the best shows I attended in that era. Just watch Al Pain [Alex Barreto] crushing it:

Since you’re photos have been spread around social media so much in the last few years, I wondered how you felt about it. I imagine you don’t get credited most of the time since it’s so easy to just grab stuff off the internet.

It’s funny, depending on my mood, I’ll either get pissed off and call people on it or I’ll let it slide. I mean, Shelter is still selling shirts with one of my pics on it and I never saw a shirt a dime or a thank you or even a shirt I was promised. It is what it is.

Shelter @ Unisound, Reading, PA, 1990. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

But seriously, if you know the person that took the picture, give them credit. It’s not yours, you know it’s not, just tag a dude! Shit, it’s not that hard.

Mandela Strikeforce @ Bourse Building, Philadelphia, PA, 1995. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

Who are some of your favorite bands to shoot?

Oh man, that’s really tough. I loved shooting Lincoln, so much energy there… Elastica and Echobelly were always fun to shoot and I got to do that more than once. I love shooting my friends.

Elastica @ 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, 1994. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

Whenever I’d go out to Cali or Seattle and see [New Age Records founder] Mike Hartsfield, the Undertow and Unbroken kids. The smiles on their faces. So much joy.

Outspoken @ QVCC Wocester, MA, early '90s. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

Or shooting bands when I just show up at a show where I’m not supposed to be. That was always fun. Just popping up on stage and yelling at one of your friends, “Yoooo Daly!” Shit was the best!

Farside in SoCal, 1998. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

I’ve taken trains across the country multiple times by myself to see friends on the West Coast (have you ever been on a train on Christmas Day 2000 miles from home? It was worth it!). The things we do for friends is something that does not transate outside of hardcore. Normal people don’t understand that you can have friends in Norway, California, the UK, and Buffalo. I guess that wasn’t really your question, though [laughs].

Black Army Jacket @ Stalag 13, Philadelphia, PA, 1997. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

If you could go back in time, who are some bands that you would have loved to shoot?

I wish I could have shot Beyond and Outburst early on. I love those bands so much. I got to see and shoot Outburst later on, and that was still awesome. Random bands, I’d wish I’d shot, like one off or random stuff like Statue, End to End, Mindwar, Pushed Aside, Against the Wall, Uniform Choice?

Inside Out @ Unisound, Reading, PA, 1990. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

Man, I went to Cali about a year too late! I did shoot some awesome shows though: Integrity’s first show, Courage, Christ, Mandela Strikeforce…

Integrity @ Unisound, Reading, PA, 1989. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

What are the toughest aspects to shooting live shows?                         

Running out of film and saving frames was tough. Like you wanna shoot a band that you like, say like Ressurection. You have 36 frames maybe 72? You gotta make the most of it. I was talking to Mark Beemer about people that shoot like 500 frames of 1 bands set. That’s nuts! I can’t imagine that much shooting for one band. Seems like overkill and lack of skill but, whatever it takes I guess?

Deadguy @ Bordentown VFW, NJ, 1993. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

I also never cared for fools diving on my head while shooting. That’s the reason I don’t have any pics of Turning Point from their last show… Some asshole dove on me and broke my camera during No Escape. Still pissed off.

Jon Pushnik (Conviction) @ Josh Grabelle's basement, Tinton Falls, NJ, mid-'90s. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

Tell me about some newer bands that we should all be on the lookout for.

I wanna show love to my man Marc Greene and his band Raw Force, from Philly. Great dude getting it done. I also love Praise, Heavy Discipline (I mean, they sound like DYS and SSD!) and Crossed Keys! My man Josh Alvarez, Dave Wagonschetuz, Dave those dudes so much! And I look to my man Sunny Singh at Hate5Six for anything new. Sunny always keeps it radical.

American Nightmare @ Underground Arts, Philadephia, PA, 2016. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

Who are some modern-day photographers that you admire?

I like that woman are taking charge these days. Anne Spina, Angela Owens, Danielle Dombrowski, Farrah Skeiky, and Angela Boatwright are all out there killing it and pushing boundaries. I tried to do that a lot back on the day… My man Jon Pushnik and Ken Penn are still getting it done along with the likes of Dave Mandel, Dan Rawe, Rick Rodney, and Dave Sine.

Ressurection @ Down Under, New Brunswick, NJ, early '90s. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

If you had to pick one of your photos that best encapsulates why you love shooting bands/artists, which one would it by and why?

I stared at this question for a long time. Then I opened my phone and it hit me like a ton of bricks. The Ink & Dagger photo below. It’s one of my favorite pics I’ve ever taken and it means a lot because, 1. It was used a lot 2. It’s of good friends. The fact that this pic is one of the ones most identified with Ink & Dagger really makes me proud.

I really just consider myself a hack with decent eyes and damn good timing. I am no technician and I am cool with that, I just like the fact a kid with a mostly a point and shoot camera was able to capture what I did.

Ink & Dagger @ First Unitarian Church, Philadephia, PA, mid-'90s. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

Shout out to all the people that stick with things, even when it gets hard. People are so damn quick to quit things these days because they are hard. Wear a fucking mask!   
Thanks for letting me finally get this done. I revisited it after a conversation with my friend Scott Viscomi about reaching out to people that you haven’t talked to in a while. Not because there was any reason, just because, you know life. 

Prema @ PWAC, Long Island, NY, 1997. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

Anyway, it really struck a nerve with me and I got a hold of a bunch of friends. It felt awesome. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your friends. Even if the last time you spoke with them, you said something stupid or were selfish. I am sure you’d be surprise how fast people are to forgive and just be thrilled to have you back in their lives.
Life is hard work, don’t make it harder on yourself by being a dick. I am trying to be more open and honest with people. It is something that has never come easy for me maybe it’ll put some people off. I can’t worry about that anymore. In this crazy age of Covid and 45, we have to find caring we can. Just try not to be careless or unkind about it!

Also, I’ll be working on a collection of some sort. Book/compilation and I will be selling prints again. Hit me up if you are interested. Who knows. 


Follow Justin Moulder on Instagram for more photos.

Tagged: photographer spotlight