Anyone who’s scrolled through concert photos online knows it becomes extremely difficult to distinguish between them unless they’re of a spectacular, overproduced or hammy performance. Often angles and lights are awkward; image quality and composition are not always the foremost concerns. How would they look in a gallery? Well, Fort Useless, the small front room of an inconspicuous row house in Bushwick—one of the neighborhood's better-named, lesser-known DIY spaces—just opened a group exhibition of New York music photography by 13 female photographers who shoot for Brooklyn Vegan, Stereogum, NPR and the like.
120dB, opened on Friday and will be on display for a few weeks at the venue, succeeds because its participants have teased out particular images of value in a couple of ways. Devyn Manibo's decisively timed photos (a la Cartier-Bresson) of tUnE-yArDs's Merrill Garbus and Kim Schifino of Matt & Kim capture raging, loud emotion at the peak action of eccentric, only-on-stage moments.
Miss Modernage’s well-composed shot of Jack White in Union Square and Gabi Porter’s washy, ethereal Iggy Pop at United Palace are very compelling for the immediate recognizability of their subjects. They remind of iconic images by Ron Gallela, the once despised paparazzo and recently esteemed photographer, whose commercial tabloid shots now adorn gallery walls.
Finally, there are Maryanne Ventrice’s shots of Sharon Van Etten and others at Fort Useless itself that are stylistically restrained and feature some of the richest tones in the exhibition. Crucially, they avoid the seemingly inevitable, sometimes hideous green or red light in which so many concert photos are cast.