If you were in a band that played a show in one of Memphis’s many clubs since the 90s, or if you were one of the many locals who made those clubs their second home, or even if you just caught some music while passing through the city, you might have seen Dan Ball standing in the front row with his camera.
Ball, a third-generation Memphian, has been taking photos of bands for three decades—while they performed, backstage, or wherever he could get them to sit for portraits. Some photos made their way into bands’ publicity materials, or appeared in one alt-weekly or another, but most ended up filed away in Ball’s house. When I first met Ball, he was somewhere in the midst of organizing and digitizing the past few decades of his work. We sat for hours in his living room, the blinds closed against the August heat, as he told me about how he went from studying film and photography at the University of Memphis to shooting some of the most influential musicians of the past 30 years—Alex Chilton, Jay Reatard, Three 6 Mafia, and Sonic Youth, to name a few—often in that very room.