Rock and Roll Perspectives at Loftworks

Queen frontman Freddy Mercury, photo by Anastasia Pantsios

Cleveland’s Loftworks Gallery had the look of a miniature Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with its recent Rock and Roll Perspectives 2 show. The exhibition featured the works of Cleveland-area concert photographers Joe Kleon and (CAN contributor) Anastasia Pantsios. Gallery walls were plastered with mostly 16×20 matted prints of rock and roll legends from Paul McCartney to Tina Turner and numerous others.

Photographers Anastasia Pantsios (left) and Joe Kleon (photo by Vince Robinson)

Much of the work featured by Pantsios was taken during her productive years in the 70s and 80s, prior to the age of digital photography. Her interest in photography was initiated during her high school years with a stint on the yearbook staff. She borrowed her amateur photographer father’s camera, and proceeded to kick off a successful career as a photographer and journalist. In her earliest years, she was shooting shows at Public Hall. The Who, Led Zeppelin, Credence Clearwater, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were among her first subjects as a photographer at Case Western Reserve University.

Joan Jett, photo by Anastasia Pantsios

After providing shots to underground newspapers, Pantsios landed a gig at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Not only did she end up taking concert photos, she started writing a weekly column that led to contributing to magazines, developing relationships with record companies, talent management, and many more concerts.

Alice Cooper, Photo by Joe Kleon

In contrast, Kleon entered the world of photography with a thousand-dollar Sony Mavica camera he admitted he couldn’t afford, but managed to pay off, partly thanks to some photographs he took of the Mayan Pyramid at Chichen Itza, Mexico. His connection with guitarist Michael Stanley as his personal photographer, working in radio at WNCX-FM and providing content for Scene Magazine was the perfect recipe for a concert photography career that has seen and captured nearly 1,200 shows.

Many of his collection were shot on the Sony, but he has since moved on to a full-frame Nikon D600.

Though the work is largely from different eras (Kleon began shooting earnestly in 2002), they share a lot in common philosophically. Both are reluctant to embrace the mirrorless craze that has taken the camera world by storm. They also share an affinity for shooting rock bands up close, where many musicians have welcomed them and provided the priceless moments they’ve managed to capture on film and secure digital disc.

Taylor Swift, photo by Joe Kleon

Kleon lamented the changes that are taking place in the concert photography world that seem to now limit those kinds of photo opportunities to a little as 30 seconds, and from a distance. “There’s only a few bands that really get it. Like, KISS will put you right up in front of the stage. And for those three songs, they are in your face. And they’re pointing at you. And they’re mugging for you. And that’s why, every time you see a KISS photo your whole life, it’s a great photo!”

Pantsios mirrored his sentiments, “I always loved shooting the metal bands because they were always fun to work with. They would pose for the camera. They were putting on a show, as opposed to people that were sort of not willing to be photographed. I remember, for instance, Miles Davis who never turned around to face the audience. That was really a hellish show to shoot.”

In combination, the pair has managed to document nearly 50 years of concerts in the Cleveland area, with both familiar and not-so-familiar faces in their photographs. Based on the response they received at Loftworks, they’ll be back to share more.

Anastasia Pantsios’s book of women in rock and roll—Girls to the Front—is available in area bookstores.

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.