Just west of Wabash on the corner of Eighth Street, there is a wall of stellar rock-star images. We are used to seeing images of our musical heroes, but this is not just a photocollage, it’s a special collection of rock images made by women photographers over the years. Curated by grunge legend Courtney Love, the wall contains images of all the greats—each one captured by a female photographer, some of whom are well-known outside of the music genre: Linda McCartney, Ellen von Unwerth, Carinthia West. The list goes on and on to include a total of forty-six photographers.
The exhibition’s title, “From Her to Eternity: The Women Who Photograph Music,” is a nod to the memory of Anita Lane, who sang with the Birthday Party and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, died at the age of sixty-one in 2021, and co-wrote the song “From Here to Eternity” that gave the band’s first record its title. Courtney Love and her partner in this venture, Julie Panebianco, ARChive of Contemporary Music/NY creative director and philanthropist, got the family’s blessing to use the song’s title for the exhibition.
It’s not easy to succeed as a photographer, let alone as a female photographer, making this exhibition all the more important in the present moment when conservatives are chipping away at women’s rights bit by bit. The wall contains images from decades—from Aretha Franklin and Buddy Guy to Billie Eilish and Chance the Rapper. There is an extreme closeup of Courtney Love herself (by Katarina Benzova), microphone against her lips, eyes uplifted, strands of her hair sticking to the sweat on her face. The image is what rock music is all about. Photographer Kate Garner captured Björk wonderfully in an imaginative blue and purple image titled “Floating Björk,” and Linda McCartney’s photo of a young Aretha Franklin does the queen of soul justice. Ebet Roberts’ capture of Philip Glass in silhouette with his cat climbing off the piano is exquisite, as is Jasmine Hirst’s portrait of Lydia Lunch, all blue eyes and red lips, in Brooklyn. The image that speaks to me most though, is Anna Gabriel’s striking shot of an eye belonging to Nadya Tolokonnikova of the band Pussy Riot looking through a hole in a sweater for Eye-D Project. Of course, it’s about the band and the music, but the political implications of the image give it its power.
Unfortunately, there are seams between sections that sometimes end up in the center of these beautiful photographs. Other than that, it’s a stunning collection that proves women are as adept at music photography as men, just as they are with other genres of photography and it’s heartening to see so many of their works in one place.
“From Her to Eternity: The Women Who Photograph Music” in the Wabash Arts Corridor at the corner of Wabash and Eighth Street, on view through September 18.