Girls to the Front: 40 Years of Women in Rock with Anastasia Pantsios

For decades photographer Anastasia Pantsios has documented the Northeast Ohio Sound, her work appearing in Rolling Stone, Spin, The Village Voice, Esquire, Creem, and Hit Parader

Girls to the Front exhibit logo (2017) by Anastasia PantsiosRock & Roll Hall of Fame

When Anastasia Pantsios photographed her first concert in 1969, women were a rarity in rock bands. At the same time, women were elbowing their way into rock photography, led by Rolling Stone's Annie Leibovitz.

In Cleveland, Pantsios was one of three women who formed Kaleyediscope Photography in 1978 to market their photos. As women became more prominent on rock stages, Pantsios developed a special interest in the diverse ways they presented themselves while performing.

Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane (May 1969) by Anastasia PantsiosRock & Roll Hall of Fame

Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane, 1969

Pantsios' first concert was also the first concert she ever photographed: "It was a free, outdoor, festival-type concert at the old Petrillo bandshell in Chicago’s Grant Park. It was pre-Woodstock, very pre-Altamont, and everything still felt idyllic and rife with possibility…"

"The Airplane was the first band I really loved. The late Sixties and early Seventies were a time when women were almost absent from rock music, and there were just two roles for them: long-haired, folkie girl and gutsy blues mama. Grace Slick was neither of those..."

"She was the most singular female personality of the era."

The Go-Go's (December 1, 1981) by Anastasia PantsiosRock & Roll Hall of Fame

Go-Go's, 1981

Pantsios felt that the most appealing thing about the Go-Go's, the most successful all-female rock band of all time, was that "they always retained a bit of a ragged edge..."

"They relied on the sort of approachable she-could-be-your-sister-or-best-friend appeal that became the hallmark of women rockers in the post-Nirvana alternative-rock era.” 

Whitney Houston (August 18, 1986) by Anastasia PantsiosRock & Roll Hall of Fame

Whitney Houston, 1986

Of Whitney Houston's 1986 show in Northeast Ohio, Pantsios noted: "[Houston’s] self-titled debut, released a year and a half earlier, had generated three Number One singles, ..."

"...earned her a GRAMMY and made her a headliner at 20,000-seat Blossom Music Center at age 23."

Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders (March 1987) by Anastasia PantsiosRock & Roll Hall of Fame

Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, 1987

Pantsios compares the Pretenders' front woman Chrissie Hynde to Patti Smith: “[Hynde] assumed an asexual, tough-girl persona…Like Smith, she was pulled toward submerging herself in the identities of the males around her..."

"But Hynde's image and legendary prickliness always took a back seat to her sultry, soulful, immediately recognizable voice that can make even the most light-weight material (of which she fortunately doesn't have much) deeply moving.”'

Kim Deal of Pixies (September 22, 1989) by Anastasia PantsiosRock & Roll Hall of Fame

Kim Deal of Pixies, 1989

Pantsios' impression of Kim Deal was that she was a "team player who played bass and contributed some vocals, while Black Francis fronted the band..."

"It was still a relatively new role for a woman in a band, but it was on the verge of becoming commonplace when the Pixies headlined Music Hall in 1989.”

Fox 8 News Cleveland Interview with Anastasia Pantsios and Joe Kleon (October 17, 2019) by Fox 8 NewsRock & Roll Hall of Fame

Anastasia Pantsios on Fox 8 News Cleveland, 2019

Pantsios is currently a staff writer / photographer for alt weekly the Cleveland Scene. While Pantsios still occasionally shoots a concert at clubs, "where there's no three-song limit, these days [I] prefer to shoot less temperamental subjects like politicians and food."

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