Rock fans know Janet Macoska’s work even if they don’t know she made it.
Macoska, the house photographer for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, has taken iconic photographs of artists including Angus Young, Pete Townshend, Debbie Harry, Paul McCartney, Cyndi Lauper and Robert Plant. Her photos are in biographies and boxed sets as well as on album covers.
Earlier this week, Macoska was in Omaha for a lecture tied to the “Women Who Rock” exhibit at the Durham Museum. (Go see it. I can’t describe how awesome it is to see handwritten lyrics to The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” and then spotting Kim Gordon’s ratty bass guitar.) The exhibit runs through May 5.
During her lecture, Macoska talked about climbing onstage to get a good shot, being chased through an arena by the tour manager for The Police and getting the perfect shot of Debbie Harry of Blondie.
Before the lecture, Macoska and I talked about her career and how she got to be where she is.
Being a professional photographer is tough, but being a professional rock photographer can be even harder. You have to know the right people and be in the right place and, for certain, be a really good photographer. Macoska gained her place by working hard and being persistent. She started by making friends with radio DJs and snapping photos of visiting artists.
Shooting concerts is one of the hardest things any photographer can do and perfect training, she said.
“You’re trying to photograph a moving person onstage under a ton of lights. You go through every kind of difficulty.”
Becoming a professional rock photographer is difficult stuff, and Macoska told me that she recommends starting with local bands and small clubs.
“Build those relationships,” she said. “Do photos for their websites, social media and CDs.”
Creating relationships is how she got to photograph Heart, Aretha Franklin and McCartney and also how she got her job at the Rock Hall.
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My column, also cleverly titled Rock Candy, appears every Thursday in the GO magazine of the Omaha World-Herald and on Omaha.com/GO. It’s reprinted here on Fridays.