Guy in tube socks, short shorts and tank top standing next to the Ramones dude in leather jacket and biker boots? Gotta love early-'80s Richmond clubs.
Ever since she joined the online social networking site Facebook.com, lifelong photographer Cindy Hicks is finding there's an enthusiastic audience for her vibrant black-and-white photos of the early Richmond punk scene.
“I had hundreds of negatives of shows but really didn't understand the value of them,” Hicks says, noting that she first began posting on the photo-sharing site Flickr. “But Facebook has allowed all these people to come out of the woodwork … it's like this funny chain letter.”
Hicks, 47, was inspired by comments left on her site to take another look through her dusty boxes of old photos, many of them chaotic shots of punk shows from the Circle Jerks, Dead Kennedys and Richard Hell as well as locals White Cross, the Prevaricators and GWAR. This was back when Richmond was a regular stop on the national hardcore circuit, with small clubs such as Benny's, a Main Street venue demolished in the '90s to make way for Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Engineering. A VCU grad herself, Hicks was friends with many bands and shot promotional photos for the Dads, featuring the late Bryan Harvey.
With the punk stuff, Hicks says she was probably more intrigued by what the music evoked in the audience than the actual music. “The style and the passion people had … it was so much fun to shoot and the bands had so much energy.”
Looking at the old photos also reminds her of the many small club options that used to exist in Richmond. “We had a lot of choices every night. … that hole in the wall scene doesn't really exist today,” she says.
Now a senior art director at the Martin Agency, Hicks is exploring the idea of putting together a photo book with the help of some designer friends. She wouldn't be the first to document the period: Local photographer and teacher Thurston Howes had photos of the same scene used in the 2006 documentary, “American Hardcore.”
Nostalgic sites such as Hicks' are blooming. Facebook users form groups around common interests or experiences — high school, college, favorite restaurants (one is dedicated to the Village CafAc) — and then watch as contributions pour in from friends. Such is the case with “Richmond Counterculture 1970-2000,” a group site started three weeks ago by former Richmonder Jay Tubb, who lives in New Hampshire. The site, which already has more than 200 subscribers, features old photos, fliers and articles about former cultural scenes around the Fan. There's even a late-'60s article from Proscript, VCU's newspaper before Commonwealth Times, about a planned puppy burning on campus to protest the Vietnam War.
“It's a bunch of people who want to preserve these memories,” says Tubb, who was raised in Bon Air and graduated from Benedictine High School at the height of the Vietnam conflict. “Richmond has changed so much, especially the area around VCU. … I find it empowering to have been around such a creative ferment, from Grove Avenue Republic [an artists' collective] to GWAR, that was about realizing there are other ways to live outside the status quo.”
Some just appreciate the ease of communicating on Facebook.
“I wish the stuff had been around years ago, when people would get fined for hanging fliers and trying to promote their bands,” says local DJ and Brick Weekly columnist Chris Bopst. Many of Hicks' photos, along with numerous fliers, can be found on another group site, “Richmond Punk Scene: '70s through the '90s.” S