BB King at Lupos in 2014 (Photo: Rick Farrell)

A pair of local concert photographers are holding a unique exhibition beginning November 17 at Dryden Galleries in North Providence. Richard McCaffrey, a career photographer who has published in Rolling Stone, Billboard, and Creem magazine since the 1970s will be joined by Rick Farrell, well-known to WUN readers for his exceptional concert photography in recent years. The show, titled “Then and Now,” will feature the two photographer’s pictures side by side, in many cases, taken decades apart.

How did the exhibition come together?

“We’ve been discussing the concept of a ‘Then and Now’ collaboration for several years,” said Farrell. “We figured Richard’s vintage works, along with my later works would be a cool combination. The original idea was a gallery exhibition and a book. Maybe a book is next, depending on how this goes.”

(Left) Dolly Parton at the Newport Folk Festival in 2019 (Rick Farrell); (Right) Dolly Parton at the Boarding House, San Francisco, CA in 1976 (Richard McCaffrey)

The theme is innovative. “‘Then and Now’ is a historical visual compilation of 60 musical artists spanning almost 50 years, in a side-by-side curation,” said Farrell.

There’s certainly a lot to draw from. McCaffrey was living in San Francisco in the 1970’s when the music business was thriving and rock shows were everywhere. He covered classic rock artists like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, and The Who and was there as punk emerged in the mid-70s. Renowned among musicians for his ability to capture the moment, McCaffrey had remarkable access to the artists.

No doubt, a lot has changed … “Gaining access to shows was much simpler then. It also wasn’t uncommon to have access backstage,” he said. “I think back, the early punk era was a lot of fun. The atmosphere was always filled with electricity and energy. I haven’t seen anything like it since,” added McCaffrey.

Concert photography presents a unique set of challenges. Rock stars tend to move around a bit, and lighting is never predictable. “The equipment has changed for the better,” notes McCaffrey. “Going from film to digital has offered many advantages. I would usually shoot a roll of 36 exposures, and walk away with maybe 3 keepers. Back then, daytime (outdoors) shows were no hassle, but the indoor (darkly lit) venues created a myriad of issues. Today’s newer digital technology is much better and easier to work with in low light situations.”

Although he’s been covering shows for fewer years, Farrell has experienced some memorable moments shooting from the pit. “I tend to like the more animated and engaging shows,” he said. Among his favorites … “The Tubes come to mind with Fee Waybill’s antics. B.B. King was always entertaining. There was one show in particular when I was the only photographer in the pit. I was probably 10 feet away when he looked me straight in the eye and gave me a thumbs up. I captured the shot, and to this day it remains one of my favorite captures. Also, The Stones were an exciting show to cover, given their magnitude and showmanship.”

The exhibit kicks off with an opening reception from 5-7 PM on Thursday, November 17 at Dryden Galleries, 1350 Mineral Spring Ave, North Providence. Photos will be available for purchase from both photographers. The exhibit runs through January 7.

Click here to learn more about the exhibit.

Click here to view photos from Richards McCaffrey.

Click here to view photos from Rick Farrell.

Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music, the arts and more for What'sUpNewp. He is also a contributor to Providence Monthly, SO RI, Hey Rhody and The Bay magazines. Ken DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse,"...