Hard Art, DC 1979

Hard Art, DC 1979


97 Pages


  • National radio and TV interviews
  • Features in national music magazines
  • Excerpt in a prominent national music magazine or possibly Washington Post.
  • Promotion on the author's website
  • Publicity and promotion in conjunction with nationwide gallery showings based on the photos in the book.

  • Capital Gift 2013, DCist

    "Photos capturing the raw magnetism of performers like Charlie Danbury of Trenchmouth and H.R. of Bad Brains signal the power of the music. Perkins is also fascinated with the audience at these events, showcasing dingy stairwells and sweat-glazed faces. In telling shots, performers and audience blur into a frenzied mass. Musician MacKaye, of the Untouchables, gives a firsthand account of being a 14-year-old at these shows, crossing dangerous parts of D.C. in order to stand with strangers in derelict buildings and hear live music. Musician Rollins’s brief essay on one of the bands, the Teen Idles, speaks to the intensity and commitment of those involved."
    --Publishers Weekly

    "What do punk rock, a Washington Post reporter and books have in common?...For the most part, nothing--except for books by Washington Post reporters about punk rock."
    --Huffington Post

    "Many punk fans will purchase Hard Art for the novelty of seeing H.R. as he was before Bad Brains moved to New York and became legends, or Ian MacKaye as he was before he shaved his head, and formed Dischord Records, Minor Threat, and Fugazi. The book deserves a wider readership than that. Perkins’s skill as a portraitist is such that you can see the energy and potential in these young men’s faces even without the context of their future roles as icons. Equally worthwhile are the portraits of those who did not become icons, but participated in the shows."
    --Philadelphia Review of Books

    "A great document for the DC scene."
    --TRUST Fanzine

    In 1979, a soon-to-erupt punk scene took hold in Washington, DC, with bands like the Bad Brains, Trenchmouth, Teen Idles, the Untouchables, and the Slickee Boys, among others, at the forefront. Lucian Perkins, later a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist for the Washington Post, was then an intern who photographed several pivotal shows over a short period of time. His now iconic photos of these shows are complemented by punk rock musician Alec MacKaye’s narrative that runs throughout the book and an essay by Henry Rollins.

    Hard Art, DC 1979 is both a book and a traveling exhibition of photographs by Lucian Perkins. The exhibition is curated and edited by photographer and photo editor Lely Constantinople and Jayme McLellan, director of Civilian Art Projects, Washington, DC, with photographs being shown as a group for the first time.

    In 1995, Lely Constantinople was hired by Perkins to manage his extensive photographic collection spanning a twenty-five year career with the Post. While looking through negatives in his basement, she found the punk images and recognized MacKaye, her then boyfriend (now husband). She asked to make contact sheets to show him, thinking he might recognize himself and others, and was surprised by how excited MacKaye was to see the images. "Those pictures were the holy grail! Not that many people brought cameras to shows then so I always wondered who he was and what happened to the pictures he took. He was at some of the best shows."

    MacKaye's text offers an intimate exploration of the moment from two perspectives: that of a fourteen-year-old experiencing music on his own terms for the first time, and a look again at a movement that fueled an underground generation musically and philosophically. His examination is not a nostalgic review of glory days gone, as much as a present conversation about the continuation of a way of thinking that still endures. Hard Art, DC 1979 is an intimate snapshot of "the time before the time" that punk rock found firm footing in the US. These images capture the cathartic, infectious energy present in any group of people who seek to change their communities through music and art.



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    Published 11 June 2013
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    EAN13 9781617751752
    Language English
    Document size 17 MB

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    Narrative: Alec MacKaye
    Essay: Henry Rollins
    EDITOR: Lely Constantinople
    PROJECT MANAGER: Jayme McLellan
    Design by Nick Pimentel and Lisa Hill
    IN THE BASEMENT Lely Constantinople
    In 1995,WashingtonPostphotographer Lucian Perkins hired me to organize his extensive photographic collection, negative by negative. His wide-ranging career included some of the most searing images of war in Russia, Bosnia, Palestine, and Iraq; perennial visits to the New York runway shows; and a mass of local stories around the DC area. I was excited by the work in large part because I was hired to look, on my own and more or less at my own pace, at an eclectic mound of photographs and figure out how best to organize and catalog them. Among tens of thousands of images, spanning a then twenty-five-year career at thePost, were these photographs.
    After going through some material of Russia, I came across a pile of unmarked negatives of punk shows. They were compositionally boldframes packed tight yet loose and impulsiveshowing chaotic, unselfconscious scenes. With few exceptions, the Lucian Perkins, 1979, Hard Art Gallery people being photographed didn’t look like they were being observed or inspected; they were uninhibited. Particularly striking were photographs that appeared to be
    taken outside. Punks, white and black, played to an entirely black and truly all-ages crowd, who were at times baffled, excited, and irreverent. The shots at the Valley Green show, with Bad Brains and Trenchmouth playing, remain some of the strangest and most remarkable photographs of Perkins’ work, regardless of subject.
    It was after looking at hundreds of images of what appeared to be several different shows that I recognized my then boyfriend (now husband) Alec MacKaye, in an instant, dancing with someone nearly Alec MacKaye, 1979, Madams Organ twice his size. He was fourteen at the time. I asked Lucian if I could take the negatives to my darkroom to make contact sheets to surprise Alec and his brother Ian. They were amazed by the discovery. Only a few of the images had ever surfaced (a handful appeared in a 1980Washington Post Magazinecover story as well as inBanned in DCandDance of Days,two books documenting the early DC punk scene), and the brothers had always wondered
    whether more shots existed from these pivotal shows. Not many people took photographs of shows back then, so Lucian’s presence was noticed.
    In 2007, Jayme McLellan, the director of Civilian Art Projects in DC, approached me to see if Lucian might be interested in doing an exhibition of his punk work. I no longer worked for him but he had allowed me to retain the punk images in the hopes of possibly publishing or exhibiting them at some point.HARD ART, DC 1979grew from her invitation.
    These photographs resonate because they are
    an unfettered look at something open. Lucian
    was unsure of what he was looking at, let alone
    documenting. The uncertainty, and his raw talent,
    make the resulting photographs vital. Lucian’s
    disconnection from the scene allowed him to be
    stimulated by all of it, not just by the bands
    playing. So he often turned his attention away
    from the bands and spent time looking at how the
    audience and musicians interacted, the stairwells,
    the walls, the flyers, the detritus under the stagethe whole scene. The same can be said for the people being photographed: they were not aware of what they were doing because they were in the throes of it. Something was being created.
    DC SPACES Jayme McLellan
    In the mid-1990s I saw my first Lucian Perkins photograph. It was an image on the front page ofThe Washington Postof a US soldier holding his rifle in front of a bombed-out landscape. He was facing a young Bosnian boy. Even now, when I think back to this image, I remember the energy between the two. There was a palpable camaraderie in a desperate landscape, a sharing of hope, and definite engagement. Somehow in this photograph, I felt a sense of purpose. I dropped everything and moved headfirst into making art and showing the work of friends. The next thing I knew, I ran an art space in Washington, DC.
    When we first began the HARD ART project many years ago, we didn’t know that the result
    would be this book, but we knew that the intensity of the imagesthe sheer power of photography to tell the storywas undeniable and needed to be shared. It was the addition of Alec MacKaye’s writing, the countless interviews and stories from the many players involved, and the thousands of hours that we all poured into the project that brought it to life. This book was born in the fray, and we’ve come out with joint history.
    But my words here pay homage to the art spaces. Like the birthing of this book, the punk scene owes much to spaces like Madams Organ, DC Space, and the Hard Art Gallery, spare and cash-poor spaces existing on the backs of a few for
    the sake of many. They did what they did to present the “art idea” to the community. They didn’t really know what they were producing. But they believed wholeheartedly in the importance of the platform.
    It is clear from these images that Bad Brains contained all the dynamism of the “art idea,” all the energy of a stadium rock show, and the familiarity of British punk, along with the newness of full vigor exploding forth before a small legion of friends. It is also clear that this team of musicians arose from a continuum, enriched by what had come before them and what was happening around them. And they needed a venuea place for friends to gather, for them to perform and share in the energy exchange.
    From the project supporters to the exhibition viewers and the bands and artists who continue to inspire us,we have been awed by the precious nature of what this book harnessesthe power of community. We thank those who against all odds ran those ad hoc art spaces. This book is proof that great things happen here.