Comet Liquors, Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of Steve Shook.
If you lived in DC in the 1980s, a new collection of art prints by DC photographers Steve Shook and Michael Horsley may bring back some memories. The prints are available on the Shook website and contain four of Horsley’s vintage photos, now in vibrant colors, edited by Shook.
The four photos in the collection include Ontario Theater, Whitlow’s Restaurant, Comet Liquors and China Doll Restaurant. They are available in several size options and run $ 25 to $ 70.
Shook first came across Horsley’s Flickr account a few years ago while researching his own artwork. He quickly realized that the two were both involved in the punk scene of the ’80s, and Horsley’s photos captured the city exactly how Shook remembered it: “other shifters”, a reference to 2014 Salad days documentary that took over the center after government employees went home at 5 p.m.
“The pictures are not always beautiful. It shows a lot of the homeless problem and a lot of beautiful abandoned buildings that have long been bulldozed or gentrified, ”says Shook. “He got clean, raw, pretty honest pictures of how DC was in a pretty low period, financially.”
Shook, whose work focuses on closed clubs, posted one of his photos on Facebook. Someone commented and asked if it was a picture of a Horsley picture, to which Shook replied that it was not, but he would love to collaborate. Then Horsley reached out to offer just that. The two have never met each other – their correspondences are found in emails and Facebook messages – but Shook said he felt he was talking to someone he already knew.
“We seemed to speak the same language and appreciate the same details about DC in that era,” Shook says. “It seemed like a very comfortable fit. I made my artwork on top of them and kept the spirit and details of all his original photos. ”
Shook says he chose these four images of Horsley to color again because they suited his artistic style, had people in them to add perspective and depth and most importantly meant something to him.
“I hung out with Adam Morgan a lot as a kid,” Shook says. “I have always admired that [Comet Liquors] sign. It’s so beautifully retro. ”
Shook considers this first collection a pilot program, saying he and Horsley are both interested in expanding it. Calling for more nostalgia, Shook is eyeing photos of the old Little Tavern hamburger chain buildings with their uniform green roofs and neon signs.
“The beauty of [Horsley’s] photos were, I do not think he actually knew he was taking pictures of something that would have any ongoing significance, ”says Shook. “He shot straight from the hip if he saw anything that particularly inspired him for some reason.”