D.C.’s Modern-Day Punk Scene, Captured In A New Photo Exhibit

By Ally Schweitzer

Punk band Dudes is among the subjects in a new exhibit of D.C. hardcore photography.
Punk band Dudes is among the subjects in a new exhibit of D.C. hardcore photography. Michael Andrade

Michael Andrade is so dedicated to documenting D.C.’s hardcore scene, he gave himself nerve damage doing it.

“When I first started [shooting], I had the cheapest camera,” he says—a Canon 60D that he used with a “bootleg flash” and a battery pack. Shooting five shows a week with his heavy equipment, the 26-year-old photographer began to feel pain in his right arm. It got scary a few months ago when Andrade was traveling back home from a show at Tenleytown’s Casa Fiesta. “My whole body started shaking,” he says. “I thought I was going to die.”

Andrade sought medical help and physical therapy. “I had to take a lot of medicine,” he says. Eventually, the pain receded. He soon invested in a lighter, more expensive camera.

Now, Andrade gets to show off the work that almost put him out of commission: Tonight the photographer opens “IN MY EYES,” an exhibit of his concert photography, at The Coupe in Columbia Heights. It’s his first solo show.

The exhibit features a few dozen images of 11 D.C.-area bands, including Chain & the Gang, Dudes (shown above), Olivia Neutron-John, Warchild, Give and Baby Bry Bry and the Apologists.

“I fell in love with hardcore music when I was 17 years old,” says the Alexandria native. “Bad Brains’ Pay To Cum changed my life.” Later on, the photography coming out of D.C.’s hardcore scene didn’t impress him. He felt more drawn to the work of photographers like Pulitzer winner Lucian Perkins—particularly his visceral images of a young D.C. punk scene, like the ones published in the 2013 book Hard Art DC 1979. “I decided to take it upon myself” to start shooting hardcore shows, Andrade says, aiming for a similar look and feel as Perkins achieved in his work.

Andrade has been shooting punk shows for two years—still a newbie by most standards, but his work stands out as some of the best in the scene. He’s now a familiar face at shows. Though, it helps that he doesn’t have a lot of competition at the tiny events he chooses to capture.

“When I go to these house shows, it’s like, two photographers,” Andrade says. When he recently shot a show at Rock & Roll Hotel, there were too many photographers there for his taste. He prefers the little gigs—where he can get right in the pit and shoot the kids. That’s where he says he finds the best shots.

“Lucian did a great job of documenting not just the band but the crowd,” Andrade says. In Perkins’ photos, you don’t just see the band—you see people in the audience, like Alec MacKaye, who would go on to become influential in their own right. “The crowd for me is half of the battle because they’re just as important as the band.”

Even after a couple of years—and who knows how many shows—the photographer says he still gets antsy before a shoot. “I always get super nervous,” he says. Why? 

“I don’t know—I’ve done this a million times,” Andrade says. “I guess it means I’m still enjoying it.”

“IN MY EYES” opens at 6 p.m. tonight at The Coupe. The show is on view to Sept. 1.