Lucian Perkins was just a 26-year-old Washington Post intern when he began chronicling the incipient D.C. hardcore scene in 1979. Perkins, who graduated with a degree in biology before being enticed into photography, would go on to win two Pulitzers as the Post’s staff photographer, a position he still holds.
The images featured in this traveling exhibit, now showing at the Center for Documentary Studies, and last year’s book Hard Art 1979 were taken at four shows at the Hard Art Gallery, Madams Organ Artist’s Cooperative and the Valley Green public housing complex in late 1979 and early 1980. The shows featured upstarts like Bad Brains, Trenchmouth, the Slickee Boys and the Teen Idles (Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelon’s Minor Threat precursor).
The photos capture those early moments when hardcore punk emerged in America as a teenage phenomenon. Besides the bands, there are plenty of pictures of the audience, providing a snapshot of nascent New Wave fashion as well as shots of future artists/designers likes Vivien Green and Ann Aptaker. Some of the most striking photos are of young Bad Brains frontman H.R. exuding the energy and charisma of James Brown. The book features narration by Alec MacKaye (Untouchables), designed to convey the spirit of the time as experienced by his 14-year-old self, as well as an essay by then-D.C. resident Henry Rollins.
The exhibit shows at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University through Oct. 11, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.