This project has been a nostalgic trip into my personal past.
I first discovered Iron Maiden and Metallica in the pages of my favorite Eighties metal mags when I was in the 4th grade. I was so taken by the power and energy of the music that I would sneak my 1980s foam-covered headphones into the sleeve of my jean jacket so I could secretly listen to my favorite Scorpions tape during recess.
The obsession didn't stop there. Years later when I finished college with a degree in photocommunications, I decided to take my meager savings and travel to Norway in hopes of being the first to photographically document the world of Norwegian black metal. This experience taught me the challenge of gaining trust and access into an outsider community, and eventually resulted in True Norwegian Black Metal (Vice Books, 2008).
After several years of documenting other unrelated subcultures, my photographic focus returned to the metal genre in 2015 when I decided to work on a photo series of heavy-metal vests, one of the most interesting nonmusical forms of metal-inspired art. More than just a piece of clothing, these battle jackets are instantly recognizable signifiers that scream allegiance and membership to the tribe of heavy metal while conveying the wearer's specific taste through their personalized mix of band patches, painted portraits, studs, chains and more.
Initially I planned to make a small book showcasing interesting vests from around the world, but it soon became clear that I needed to expand my focus to include the passionate fans who create them — so this small project turned into a much bigger one. Over the course of four years I traveled across the U.S. and Europe photographing fans at the world's most die-hard heavy-metal festivals like Keep it True (Germany) and Muskelrock (Sweden), along with many artists including Sadistic Intent, Darkthrone, Visigoth, Abbath, Manilla Road and Behemoth, to name a few.
The book that resulted from this process, Defenders of the Faith: The Heavy Metal Photography of Peter Beste (Sacred Bones, 2019), is an exploration into the timeless culture of heavy-metal music and lifestyle. As you'll see in the images that follow, some of which appear in the book while others are previously unseen outtakes, I purposefully shied away from posed, iconic band-style portraits in favor of more natural moments to get to the heart of the community and passion shared by the fans and musicians alike.