Head first?

May 6, 2009 at 12:00 am

You always remember the first time — the first time you played in front of a sizable crowd, your first photo published, the first groupie tryst. OK, maybe you don't remember that last one — maybe you wish you could forget ...

Detroit-based photog Patrick Pantano has not only been featured within Metro Times as a musician (he's the Dirtbombs drummer), he also shot a few of our covers. And Pantano can claim other firsts too: such as the first time his photo appeared on the cover of a multi-platinum record, his first world tour, his first late-night show appearance.

On Friday, May 8, Pantano will get another first — his first debut solo exhibition. From the man who visually introduced the world to the White Stripes, having shot covers for both White Blood Cells and Elephant, comes a collection of portraits titled Heads Shot. Sure, there'll be familiar faces from Detroit's rock 'n' roll scene, but Heads isn't a survey of that; rather, it's a photographic experiment aimed at, funny enough, tearing away the conventions of portrait photography.

"The idea for the series was to shoot a group of people in the exact same style — the exact same lighting, same setting, same expression, everything as similar as possible," Pantano says. With a number of controls set in place, the only variables were the subjects and what they chose to wear on the day they were to be photographed. "It's funny, some people look just like they do in real life but others look hyper-real or something, those photos of people that don't look like photos," Pantano says, noting that the collection isn't necessarily flattering and wasn't meant to be.

As for convention deconstruction, Pantano tried to strip away all photography influences he could think of. "Portraiture has certain trappings, such as lighting, framing, environment, expression and clothes. It didn't matter who the subject was, it was about removing options. I think the effect of the show is that the photos are like a crowd on the wall looking from the outside at the crowd who came to the show."

The project began in late 2005, but Pantano had timeconsuming commitments with the Dirtbombs, which is a main reason why he's just now seeing his first solo exhibit.

So how does the trapsman feel about being a frontman for a night? "I think anybody who gets on a stage needs attention in some ... I accept the fact it's there. I don't feel comfortable being front and center but being a drummer, you're kind of controlling everything and all eyes are not on you, it's the same putting on an art show, you're controlling everything but all eyes are on the art."

Heads Shot opens 6 p.m. Friday, May 8, at the CAID, 5141 Rosa Parks Blvd., Detroit; 313-899-2243; on display through July 3.

Travis R. Wright is arts and culture editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]