Part 2 in our interview series for the HARD ART DC 1979 exhibition opening this Saturday, November 5th at Civilian Art Projects!
HARD ART DC 1979 @ Civilian Art Projects
1019 7th St NW
November 5 - December 31, 2011
Opening Reception: Saturday, November 5, 7-9pm
Lely Constantinople, co-curator and photo editor of HARD ART DC 1979, and Alec MacKaye, writer and subject in photographs of HARD ART DC 1979 talk to us about their experiences developing the project and witnessing the awesome power of photography.
Interview with Lely Constantinople and Alec MacKaye:
1. Lely, what was your experience like working on the HARD ART DC 1979 exhibition?
Fantastic. It has been one of those projects that you can't see the forest for the trees most of the time but then there's a break and the light pours in. The project has had so many turns over the years that what has floated to the top is something we've all chiseled into being. I've never been in a band but this must be what song writing is like - disparate parts, someone has to keep the beat, more (or less) cow bell. True collaboration. Jayme has been an awe-inspiring force- her commitment to projects she believes in is unmatched and the energy she brings is entirely infectious. She definitely kept HARD ART from dying on the vine many times (as I know she's done for countless other projects and artists over the years). Lucian is an incredibly gifted photographer whose work just continues to give and give. That you can look at these images now over 30 years old and feel such immediacy is remarkable. He is not afraid to get close. Working with Alec has been pure joy. And Nick- he just simply kicks ass...so talented, sweet and patient. I hope we can all work again on something else!
2. How do you think Washingtonians, as well as audiences in the other tour cities, will react to this exhibition, the photographs and the stories behind them?
The raw power of the photos is undeniable so I feel like anyone, anywhere will respond to that first and foremost. The stories behind them are also immediate, intimate and bring you right in so I think anyone is able to access the feeling the pictures and writing give.
3. Alec, you were in some of the photographs – part of the action, which photo did you enjoy seeing the most? Lely, do you have a favorite photograph that spoke to you?
Alec: The Valley Green pictures. The expressions on the faces of the kids, the closeness of everyone. It was also incredible to see the Trenchmouth/DOA photos, which was a big deal. That show changed me.
Lely: For me, definitely the Valley Green images, particularly the crowd shots and the ones where HR and Charlie are one with the crowd, in and around everyone, messy, sweaty, sharing themselves with everyone. The photos of Alec dancing with Charlie (Trenchmouth) at Madams Organ also rise above - they are up-ful and make me happy. Also, the one of HR with his face smushed up in the camera pulling his hair back blows me away. I feel the song in that one.
4. Lely, what’s one thing about HARD ART DC 1979 that has inspired or intrigued you?
Simply looking at the images...more than being historical and rare photos of that time, they are compositionally astounding, present, immediate. People may linger on nostalgia, an ache for times past, but the pictures are more than that. "Where are they now?" may not be as important as "what did they do then?" I'm inspired by the energy, the make-it-happen-ness - how uncomplicated it is - make what you make, share it.
Thanks so much for the insider’s scoop, Lely and Alec! Truly inspiring stories, I know PLP readers are getting amped to go see the show!
More info about HARD ART DC 1979:
HARD ART DC 1979 is a traveling exhibition and forthcoming book* of photographs by Lucian Perkins with writing by Alec MacKaye and a contribution by Henry Rollins. 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.
* Many thanks to Nick Pimentel, designer of the book, for all of his hard work and energy on the project.
In 1979, a soon to erupt punk scene took hold in Washington, DC with 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 a 26-year-old intern who photographed several shows over a pivotal five-month period. Alec MacKaye, then 14, was at most of the shows and appears in Perkins' photographs.
Years later, 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 U.S. These images capture the cathartic, infectious energy present in any group of people who seek to change their communities through music and art.
This exhibition is scheduled to tour to the Good Children Gallery in New Orleans, LA and Austin, TX for the SXSW Music Festival. More tour dates to come.