To The Front highlights the women and non-binary heroes of music photography


Studio 52 is a community artist space located in the heart of Allston, and is proud to support the Boston music scene and local artist community.

Concept: A photo gallery in Boston dedicated solely to top-of-the-line, front-of-the-stage music photography. An even better concept: The same gallery, except prominently featuring the work of only women and non-binary photogs.

#OscarsSoWhite, #GrammysSoMale — the stark contrast in representation and acknowledgment of achievement amongst artists who fall outside of the “white male” category remains so evident that there are hashtags for them. And while things are seemingly improving, the struggle for anyone outside that demographic to gain the appropriate amount of recognition — or even a metaphorical seat at the table — remains particularly difficult, especially when a chunk of people believe that women and people of color just aren’t trying hard enough.

Minorities have never needed to “step up” to the artistic plate; they’ve just needed to have the equal amounts of space and respect afforded to them. But to include women from all walks of life in the artistic dialogue isn’t enough.

For all the times that Bikini Kill ordered women to the come closer to their stage, touring music photo gallery To The Front is doing one better: The photo exhibit showcases the work of not only women, but also artists who identify as non-binary. The show, which started in Los Angeles and has since made stops in New York and Toronto, will be on display in Allston at Zone 3 from April 26 to May 24. While the gallery will be open to the public for free from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, To The Front celebrates its grand opening with a reception this Thursday, featuring a performance from Lilith.

“Our goal with this project is to highlight photographers/graphic designers/illustrators who are from different scenes, backgrounds, identify differently but are killing it in music,” says To The Front co-founder Erica Lauren Perez. “It’s important to have representation and there’s not one version of that, that’s why it’s important. What sums my opinion on this up best is witnessing Shirley Manson’s speech at a festival in Los Angeles last year. She said ‘The point isn’t to have separate festivals or stages for women. The point is to get us on the main stage with everyone else.’”

Perez and other co-founder Courtney Coles presented the first iteration of the gallery in Los Angeles with the intention of it being a one-time occurrence, but the success of the inaugural event proved to be substantial enough that the women chose to take the show to the opposite coast. The lineup, Perez says, shifts slightly with every location.

“We’ve never had a submission process as far as anyone’s work being accepted in the show, it’s kind of been a natural flow of ‘which artists do we see online?’ or ‘who do we know are friends of friends in this city that are actively making art based around music?’” she notes. “Our plan going forward is to keep extending the invite to artists who have been in the past shows, and while not everyone will be able to participate because of life or work happenings, we will build onto the lineup with local artists based in or near the city we are hosting the next show.” 

The show initially was named “Girls To The Front” as a direct homage to Bikini Kill, but following their second show, Perez changed the name to better reflect the artists the identities of the artists in the gallery.

“After the second show in New York, when we started to grow in number of artists featured in the show, it was brought to my attention that Girls To The Front was not a event name some artists felt they identified with, we immediately changed it because what we want is inclusivity,” Perez explains.  

After its Allston showing, To The Front moves to Nashville, followed by a break. And while Perez notes that none of theses galleries will be permanent, she hope that their effect on their respective communities will be.

“We won’t always have these shows, and if Courtney and I hope for anything it’s that it’ll stir other artists to create their own shows or projects,” Perez adds. “The point of all of this is to hire people for their work and art, give credit where it’s due — to stop fueling the archaic mentality that the music industry is a boys club. Hopefully as a community and scene we can create change with support and solidarity. Use your platform to uplift others.” 

TO THE FRONT GALLERY OPENING RECEPTION:: Thursday, April 26 at Zone 3, 267 Western Ave. in Allston, MA :: 6 p.m., all ages, free admission :: Event page :: Featured photo by Erica Lauren Perez.