Front Row Center

Exhilarating Exhibition of Rock & Roll Photographer Larry Hulst Captures Three Decades of Iconic Musical Artistry

    Additional Reporting by
    icon May 16, 2024
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An unforgettable visual exhibition documenting the exhilarating  journey of groundbreaking musical artists is set to open at the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, which is located on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University, that promises to captivate and inspire visitors of all ages.  

Titled Front Row Center: Icons of Rock, Blues, and Soul and slated to open on Friday, May 17th and run throughout the summer until August 31st, this amazing exhibition takes audiences on a musical odyssey through the golden eras of Rock, Blues, and Soul music by featuring over 70 photographs of iconic photographer Larry Hulst that capture the freewheeling energy of live music and the enduring visual spectacle of rock’s greatest performers. 

From Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix to David Bowie, Alice Cooper, and Lauryn Hill, this visual display of innovative legendary musicians, bands, and singers spans three different genres of music across the expanse of three generations, charting Hulst’s extraordinary path through the pulsing heart of the most exciting live music of the last century by showcasing a unique visual anthology of rock, blues, and soul music from 1970–1999. These images, which have been featured on album art and spreads in Rolling Stone magazine, convey Hulst’s lifelong passion for the magnetism, immediacy, and unpredictability of live music.

With photos that document some unforgettable voices of funk, punk, and beyond, Front Row Center grants viewers an all-access pass to many of the most memorable performances in popular music history.

“Visitors will be transported by the musical genius of these rock, blues, and soul icons on a journey that is as equally enlightening as it is exhilarating,” states Ashley Ross, Associate Director of Collections and Impact.

“This period in music from the 1970s through the 1990s was when Rock, Blues, and Soul all kind of discovered and evolved and crossed over with one another,” she continues. “I think there’s clearly rock and roll magic happening in the 1970s and that part of this exhibition is fabulous because that’s where things came together, but there are still historic moments happening in the later decades that are also incredibly documented,  so you get to see the advancement of everything, along with where  some earlier popular artists are at later in their careers.”

“The photo Hulst took of Janis Joplin, for example, is fabulous and was taken within a week or two of her death, so it captures the artist at the peak of their career, right before an unexpected tragedy. There’s a few shots like that where retrospectively, you think to yourself - Wow, this is a moment in time you won’t see anywhere ever again.”

A longtime fan of popular music, photographer Larry Hulst  came into his own as a sought-after photographer of live performances in the late 1960s, when rock photography first emerged as a serious creative pursuit. Hulst began photographing San Francisco’s vibrant music scene and went on to shoot thousands of concerts across the country for over five decades.

This exhibition charts one photographer’s extraordinary path, showcasing a unique visual anthology of influential popular musicians and memorable performances from 1970–1999. In these candid, immersive photographs, Hulst stands apart from other famed rock photographers by being a concertgoer first. Consistently, Hulst is in front of the music, with us, witnessing history and artistry. These are not choreographed images, a privileged insider’s look, or embellishments. These are honest, evocative images of artists communicating with their audience through the power of music.

In these years, Hulst chronicled a defining chapter of American cultural history - a silent but electrifying evocation of musical eras and personalities whose like we may never see again. Front Row Center manages to draw viewers into his incomparable musical odyssey with vivid photographs that, in Hulst’s own words, “capture the truth, joy, and energy contained within a moment.”

What is rock music, and who performs it? As Hulst’s photographs clearly demonstrate, rock music cannot be neatly packaged. Indeed, there is hardly any band or performer who has not crisscrossed genres or subgenres of rock, whether in style, lyrics, or influence. The organic, even chaotic, evolution of rock is a constant source of fascination for Hulst, who photographed an incredible range of artists, each with a unique voice and place in rock history. There is Bob Dylan, for instance, whom Hulst documented over decades. Initially known for his acoustic, folk style, Dylan took up the electric guitar in 1965 to shouts of “Judas” from his audience. Dylan’s hybrid folk-rock influenced many, including Neil Young, Don Henley, and others.

Led Zeppelin, photographed by Hulst on multiple occasions, is a pillar of classic rock. In hindsight, however, Zeppelin is considered a precursor of heavy metal, and an influence on Alice Cooper, AC/DC, Kiss, and Metallica, who are also featured in this exhibition. Artists like Frank Zappa, photographed in 1977, often worked far from the boundaries of rock, and have more in common with new wave art bands like DEVO, Talking Heads, and—later—Beck, than with original rock pioneers like Chuck Berry, who inspired the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.

Summarily, Hulst’s work offers a vivid time-lapse photograph of the intricate and organic evolution of rock, a quintessential American art form.  “I hope my photography expresses the gratitude I and my fellow concert-goers feel for those who have shared their joy of music with us. They were taken with the joy, love, and respect I hold for these timeless performers captured on film.”

According to Ashley Ross, what distinguishes Hulst’s photography the most is the fact he first and foremost is a fan and spectator. “He wasn’t on stage trying to capture images for the band’s sake as a hired photographer taking promotional shots, but instead he was a part of the audience and part of the magic. He captures a different perspective and the artists onstage don’t even know he’ necessarily there. He’s not onstage, he’s not backstage, he’s not on the side of the stage, but he’s part of the audience and the experience, which sets him apart.”

The Front  Row Center exhibition will run from May 17 - August 31st and a list of programs and events in conjunction with this new exhibition can be found by visiting 

The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum is located on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University, 7400 Bay Road, University Center, Michigan. Museum hours are Monday through Saturday, 11 am to 5 pm.  And best of all - admission is free!

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