Lucia Graca started her journey to being the owner of a music-photography gallery in the photo pits of London, England’s premiere rock shows. She was one of two women at the time in the sea of sweat and elbows below the stage. She struck up a friendship with the other woman for protection and camaraderie as they wielded their long lenses and strategic platform shoes. In time, the friend left her day job as manager at a gallery of rock photographs, and asked Graca if she wanted a job.
Today, Graca owns Analogue Gallery on Toronto’s Queen Street West; a narrow room hung to the ceiling with photos of musicians on stage in their full sweaty array, in quiet moments, striking iconic poses and stirring tea. Graca has assembled a Women in Rock Exhibition for the Contact Photography Festival this spring, and it’s packed wall-to-wall with your favourite divas.
The day of our conversation, I arrived at the gallery moments after Toronto-based, internationally renowned photographer Patrick Harbron had delivered a few more signed and numbered 16×20 photographs of Madonna. So crisp and close you could see the stitching on her conical bra. Graca pulled them out of a drawer with evident (and well deserved) glee (they were amazing), confiding to me that the she enjoyed organizing this exhibition especially because it required some sleuthing.
Not content to page through her significant catalog of represented artists, Graca reached out across her networks and let the music photography world know that she was ready for all their photos of sisters, doing it for themselves. Treasures poured into her inbox, decades of neglected work from established photographers like Barrie Wentzell and Harbron, recently deceased powerhouse Francine Winham, and offerings from younger photographers with dynamic images of more recent events.
The show entire will feature legendary female musicians across genres, who have pushed artistic and creative boundaries while transforming the music industry. The work ranges from rarely-seen powerful images of Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone in the 1960s captured by Wentzell (longtime head photographer at Melody Maker, the UK equivalent of Rolling Stone magazine) to Florence and the Machine here in Toronto, taken by Graca herself (turns out she still has her lenses and her platforms).
Prices for prints range from $200 to $2,000, and there are a lot of photos on the walls that feature each individual pore, hair or bead of sweat on some of the 20th and 21st century’s most exceptional women in rock. If you’re not ready to sacrifice your dignity and your favorite pair of platforms to the artform, do the next best thing and hit Analogue Gallery to support the people who will.
Women in Rock
Thursday, April 30–Sunday, June 14
673 Queen St W, Toronto
*Photo credits in order of appearance:
Blondie by Lex Van Rossen
Amy Winehouse by Lucia Graca
Joni Mitchell by Joan Latchford
Madonna 1990 by Patrick Harbron
Nina Simone by Barrie Wentzell