Endpoint, 1994 | Photo by Alex Ayers

For those about to rock …

On Thursday, July 12, University of Louisville’s Photographic Archives will unveil its newest exhibition, “Live from a Dark Room: Louisville Underground Music in Photographs, 1980-Present.”

Located in the basement of UofL’s Ekstrom Library — underground — the archive hosts a variety of exhibits throughout the year, pulling items and images from its collection and occasionally soliciting new images.

“Live from a Dark Room” is a team effort between the archive staff members Elizabeth Reilly, curator of Photographic Archives, and Marcy Werner, imaging manager and curatorial assistant.

Elizabeth Reilly | Courtesy

Reilly conceived and curated the show and invited photographers to contribute. Werner scanned, printed, framed and hung the pieces.

Reilly spoke with Insider about collecting the images and provided some of her own punk rock memories.

“For this particular exhibition, I invited photographers to show their work,” she explained.

Those photographers — folks like Aron Conaway, Lonnie Tuner, Sarah Lyon, Bill Carner, Tim Furnish and Will Oldham — were invited to help fill a hole Reilly saw developing in a larger UofL project, the Louisville Underground Music Archives (LUMA).

Started in 2013, LUMA seeks to catalog Louisville’s influential music scene, collecting objects and artifacts of all kinds. There are posters, flyers, fan mail, things like old drum heads, CDs, cassettes and vinyl, and video footage.

“We started collecting materials in 2013, and we’re getting stuff, but I wasn’t seeing as many photographs as I had expected,” said Reilly. “I knew they were out there. I know the hesitation to let go of treasures, so I decided to have an exhibition and invite people I know shot photographs.”

Rodan, 1993 | Photo by Tim Furnish

As she had hoped, the exhibit has brought in new pictures, on loan and donated, and she anticipates it will bring even more.

Collecting for this exhibit, and for the greater LUMA project, hearkens back to Reilly’s own punk rock past.

“I’ve been listening to the Louisville music since the early ’90s, when I lived in California,” she said. “I also photographed live bands when I was younger. A lot of it was punk and hard core. So this is something I’ve always been in tune with.”

The connections and crossovers in Louisville’s scene can be surprising to an outsider. A folksy and celebrated singer-songwriter might have a history with an influential post-hard-core mathrock band.

“What’s interesting about Will Oldham is that before he was making music, he was taking photographs, because his family had a dark room,” explained Reilly. “He was photographing his friends, and those people were Squirrel Bait and Slint and really cool bands.”

Oldham opened up his archive and contributed to the show.

Slint, 1990 | Photo by Will Oldham

Punk rock historians might remember that the cover of Slint’s seminal album “Spiderland” was an Oldham photo. That connectivity illustrates the richness of the Louisville music scene, which Reilly believes many Louisvillians do not appreciate.

“I certainly know who’s going to be interested in seeing the material, and there’s a lot of people that are in the scene, but I also want to educate people who may not know about the Louisville music scene, that it has been really influential beyond Kentucky,” she said.

GRLwood, 2018 | Photo by Ross Gordon

She also hopes the vibrant youth culture displayed in the photographs will draw the interest of UofL’s current on-campus youth.

A normal exhibit at the Archives would feature between 40 and 60 pieces, but “Live from a Dark Room” has close to 300 images. 

“I always pictured this show hanging salon-style, that’s just almost covering the walls,” she said. “It’s also unique because we’re using all different kinds of frames, different displays and presentations. It’s really going to be visually impactful.”

While the photos are gathered from personal collections, they come in a variety of physical forms.

“Some of the photographers had prints already made, some people gave us digital files, and some people gave us negatives, where we scanned them and used Photoshop to remove dust and scratches, then print them on a high quality ink printer,” said Reilly.

Reilly and Werner are excited to showcase the 300 images, and Reilly has an important message for visitors and Insider readers.

“This show is full of images and people and bands and venues, but there are still so many really vital Louisville musicians and bands and people who are not represented in the exhibit … I want people to know if they do have photographs and materials, we invite them to share it, so it can be preserved for generations to come.”

Wink O’Bannon of The Blinders, 1980 | Photo by Bill Carner

An opening reception for “Live from a Dark Room” will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 12. The exhibition is on display through Dec. 20 in the UofL Photographic Archives gallery, located underground, on the lower level of Ekstrom Library, 2215 S. Third St.

Eli Keel is “pretty much” a Louisville native. You may have seen him around town reading poetry, short stories, dancing or acting. He’s a passionate locavore, so you may have also seen him stuffing his face at one of Louisville’s amazing restaurants. When he isn’t too busy writing short stories, he blogs at amanwalksintoablog.wordpress.com.


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