Photographer Janet Macoska Captures the Heart of Rock and Roll in Northeast Ohio
From her iconic photos of music heroes like Todd Rundgren and Bruce Springsteen to her historic World Series of Rock footage, held at Cleveland Stadium in the 70s, Janet Macoska has captured the heartbeat of Northeastern rock and roll. from Ohio since the late 1960s.
Today, Macoska still spins gigs at places like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and MGM Northfield Park, continuing what she set out to do when she was just a teenager.
When I was 10 the Beatles came to America, and that’s when I knew I had to get involved in music, but I didn’t play musical instruments. I understood where I was going in Life Magazine, which my mother subscribed to, and realized that I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to tell the stories of people who are famous and why they are famous. And the key to that was in our closet out front, I thought, which was my dad’s camera. The job I wanted to do, the career I wanted to have, was to be a photographer in the world of music.
So I started calling radio stations. I started calling a few disc jockeys on KYW & WKYC. They were kind enough to let me off at the station. I don’t know, maybe on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and I started responding to their fan mail where I was getting huge boxes of 45 discs, promo discs with picture covers, which was the best. So I was living the high life, and I was only 12 years old.
Well, in 1966, Sonny and Cher were playing a gig across the street at the Music Hall, and before the gig, they came to WKYC and took a few calls from listeners and I took some pictures . I sent a couple of these pics to Teen Screen Magazine and they printed one and I made $2 from my efforts but that pretty much convinced me that was what I was going for To do.
Bruce Springsteen 1974
I see there’s a show coming up at the Allen Theater. I had heard of this artist who was going to open because WMMS had started playing his records. He had two records of, I think, at that time. But he was not well known. And so I didn’t know what to expect.
Here he comes out on stage and he looks like a little beatnik guy and his name was Bruce Springsteen. It was February 1, 1974. He was playing for the first time in Cleveland. And it was the first time that I shot a rock and roll concert. So we had our first moments together.
The Rock World Series
Belkin Productions created a series of shows called the World Series of Rock which they held at the Municipal Stadium.
I don’t think of more than five acts a day, a bit like a mini Woodstock, and I’m almost free to go where I want. And it was like a candy store.
So I see Joe Walsh and he has a band called Barnstorm. I’ve never seen so many people at the municipal stadium, and I wanted to take a picture of Joe playing with the public in front of him.
I found myself near the drummer. He drums and looks down and he sees me with my camera, and I said “shh” and I took some pictures of this position, I got exactly what I wanted and I sneaked away .
Capture the live event
When I started filming rock and roll and music, it was all about the live event. That’s what attracts me the most because it’s a strange space that I enter, rather calm inside. I can’t even hear the music.
It’s just reacting to whatever’s in front of me and [in] the light…because it’s the most authentic way to capture the talent and artistry that person on stage produces.
If I can do that, like encapsulate some of that energy and what that person is giving off, [so] when you look at the picture, whether it’s Bruce Springsteen or David Bowie or whatever, you’re going to get it.
It’s spinning right now. It’s a moment of a sixteenth of a second. You have to anticipate, and that’s why you need some kind of gyroscope or radar or something inside of you that tells you when to click.
Janet Macoska shares more stories in her photography books, “All Access Cleveland,” from Cleveland Landmarks Press and “Bruce Springsteen: Live in the Heartland,” from ACC Art Books.
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