David Bowie and Chuck Yeager?
They'll both be hanging as part of photographer Xyra Harper's first exhibit, opening this Sunday at noon in the gallery/restaurant of d.c. space.
"I'll only have 20 of my candid portrait shots" in the show, called "I Couldn't Find Rilke," "but they'll be poster-sized," says the Arlington photographer. "Most of them will be in the window at the corner of 7th and E streets."
While flipping through the pages of a British music magazine during a two-year stint as disc jockey at Georgetown University's now-defunct WGTB-FM, Harper decided she wanted to capture on film the new wave, progressive and punk acts that emerged in the late 1970s.
"There are not many Americans covering that genre of music," she says. "They are very interesting-looking, really visual-oriented." She especially likes the look of the Manchester, England, groups, citing Pete Shelley and Poly Styrene of the X-Ray Specs. "Poly wore the '60s psychedelic look when it wasn't popular -- she was outrageous be-fore her time. I sort of fit into that category,too."
For her music show back in 1977, Harper invited a number of musicians to the station, and the local groups or new wave types she interviewed later became her subjects again.
"It was amazing how many of them are art students, members of Simple Minds, the Clash, and Urban Verbs." Some musicians distinguish themselves by making their own clothes, Harper says, and the multi-zippered leather attire popularized by the Clash was an original design by members of the group.
For Harper the photographer, the real art comes in the darkroom, working with chemicals and varying her printing techniques. She concentrates mostly on the developing and printing, and the exhibit is the first forum for her lab work to be viewed asart.
In the last five years, Harper has also caught Julian Lennon, Sting, Roxy Music, Madness and Urban Verbs' Robert Goldstein and Robin Rose during performances or up close in crowds.
Lennon, who is featured in the exhibit, was photographed on his birthday, last April 13, during a performance in Philadelphia. "Flowers were thrown on stage, and young girls were screaming at him just like they did for his father," says Harper. Now photographers aren't even allowed to shoot during press conferences with Lennon, she says. Bowie was a different matter. Harper says she had to write his agent for permission. The portraits of Madness on view at d.c. space show group members goofing off for their photographer friend.
Harper shot Yeager, Donald Sutherland, Charlton Heston and Walter Cronkite during a party for "The Right Stuff" that was held on a runway at National Airport when the movie was released. The photographs, all night shots, are also in the exhi-bit.
Harper, who takes her Nikon FE2 practically everywhere, is now on the lookout for "the fans." She says she'll continue to photograph famous people because everyone wants to see them, but she really wants to take photos of the people who emulate, patronize and idolize the stars.
"The young ones are somewhat repulsive, going to extremes to draw attention to themselves in a negative way. The older ones are more high fashion. They're imitating, but they're looking for their own individualism."
Harper hopes to perfect her art form while looking for other opportunities to capture individuals who do something interesting with their lives, if only for a moment. Her professional inspiration, she says, is the late Diane Arbus.
The show is on view Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 or 3 a.m. through September.