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Cleveland Heights Woman Curates Show Featuring Local Music Photographers

'Visual Music: Northeast Ohio Photographers Look at Rock and Roll' will be open Friday and next weekend

Cleveland Heights resident Anastasia Pantsios has captured some of the biggest pop and rock icons on stage.

She’s photographed a laundry list of superstars like Prince, Madonna, Michael and The Boss, just to name a few. Most of her photographs are from Cleveland venues like the former Richfield Coliseum, Blossom and Public Hall.

Eighteen of her photos and the work of 11 other photographers from Northeast Ohio, including two other music photographers from Cleveland Heights, are now on display at Zaller Gallery on 16006 Waterloo Road. People can browse and buy the photographs this weekend and during the Waterloo Arts Fest June 25. 

Pantsios organized the show, Visual Music: Northeast Ohio Photographers Look at Rock and Roll, which features more than 200 shots that span five decades from photographers who have captured national and local acts at venues like the , The Q, Blossom and Beachland Ballroom. The show .

Pantsios, whose work is also featured in the Rock Hall exhibit, Girls on Film: 40 Years of Women in Rock, has sold her photographs to publications like the Rolling Stone, the Village Voice and Esquire, and her photos have appeared in several books on bands such as U2, Judas Priest and Mötley Crüe.

She first fell in love with music photography during her first concert shoot — Jefferson Airplane in 1969 at Chicago’s Grant Park.

She moved to Cleveland Heights in the early ‘70s to attend Case Western Reserve University, and she made photography her living for years. But in the late ‘80s, things started to change.

Security cracked down, she said, and photographers who once had free reign to shoot near front row and venture backstage were sent toward the back by the soundboards. Bands and labels and managers gave them new restrictions. Sometimes they could only take photos of the first few songs.

One of the last big arena concerts she photographed was Gwen Stafani in 2006.

But her favorite genre of music to shoot? Metal, she said, as she described the big hair and outrageous stage acts of the bands.

“I’m a metal head to begin with. Metal (bands) put everything into their stage act,” she said. And, “the bands tended to be on less of an ego trip.”

Now she only works once in awhile and mostly at smaller stages like the Grog Shop and Beachland Ballroom, where you can get close to the bands and don’t have as many rules.

“I still shoot occasionally, but I just got into the phase of life where I don’t want to deal with the hassle,” said Pantsios, who is staff writer for Cleveland Scene.

Another Cleveland Heights photographer, Greg Donley, also prefers the intimate venues like Beachland and Grog Shop where you can get close to the stage.

His photos look very different from the black-and-white shots Pantsios has displayed.

Donley layers three to five color images of bands and individual members, usually in one position, to depict movement to create his photographs.

“I try to convey a sense of motion and action and sound … by layering up a lot of digital images to get motion and noise,” said Donley, who is a founding board member of and works for the Cleveland Museum of Art.  

He also has had to adapt to the changes in the photography world, including transitioning to digital. He used to take black-and-white shots, develop them on non-glossy paper and draw with color pencils on top of the images. His newer digital work will be showcased this weekend. 

The third photographer from Cleveland Heights, Aaron Mendelsohn, hasn’t had to adjust to the new demands of big stage acts or advances in technology — he started shooting in 2006.

And this is his first show.

His shots feature newer national acts, like the Yeah Yeah Yeas and Foo Fighters, from Bonnaroo, The Q and The House of Blues.

Mendelsohn, who has degrees in engineering and law, started covering concerts and festivals for the Free Times in 2003, and picked up photography along the way.

He invested in a professional camera about five years ago and started shooting more often. His wife, Nikki, who has a fine arts photography background, was at the gallery last week helping him arrange his photos, many of which capture the artists under bold green, red and blue stage lights that saturate the images with one prominent color. 

“It’s nice to see your work like this,” he said, crossing his arms and looking at his work that was organized on the ground before it was mounted on the wall. “I’ve never sold it or anything. Hopefully people will buy some of these.”

The gallery will be open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. this Friday and June 24, and from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 25 during the Waterloo Arts Fest. Prices range from $50 to $450, and Pantsios said a majority of the work ranges from $75 to $150. 

Anastasia Pantsios June 16, 2011 at 08:39 PM
Thanks for the plug, Michelle. I hope a lot of people will stop by because I'm really impressed by the range of work all these talented photographers produced.
Michelle Simakis June 17, 2011 at 02:19 PM
Of course! It was a pleasure to meet you and Aaron and speak to Greg. I hope you get a big turnout. The range of artists and local venues included in the show is astounding. You really could visually tell the history of this musical genre by just looking at the shots you and the other photographers have included.

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