Front-row fanatics at Rock in Rio

Story highlights

  • Photographer Gabriel Quintao captures the excitement at the front row of a music concert
  • He has been taking photos at the Rock in Rio festival for years in Rio de Janeiro
  • "The front row is always unpredictable; it changes every time," he said

(CNN)Fandom is a tricky thing. People are willing to do some unusual and sometimes dangerous things because of their devotion for a team, player or entertainer.

Music fans often reach the height of fandom as they crush themselves to the front of the stage in an effort to get as close to the performers as possible. Entertainment photographer Gabriel Quintao has been capturing the faces in the crowd for a few years now and likens their devotion to a battle scene.
Gabriel Quintao
"The idea of the essay is to drive the audience into a war environment," Quintao said about his "Front Row" project. "The shades of gray with a lot of contrast associated with the dramatic faces and the desperate acts of the crowd gave me the drama I wanted."
    Indeed, the images he captures depict the agony and frustration someone might feel in conflict. But amid the pain, there is also joy and excitement as music lovers get a taste of something most people at a concert do not.
    Quintao's photographs from the Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro are up-close, personal and intimate. The festival is one of the largest music concerts in the world and has brought together some of the most popular acts of their time: Queen, Prince, Elton John, Katy Perry and, more recently, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen and Metallica.
    It draws hundreds of thousands of fans from all over the world to see and hear their favorite acts. But for some people, it is the chance to show the performers how they feel about them.
    "I realized that people who stay at the first row in these situations don't want just to listen to the music better or to see their idol closer," Quintao said. "They want to prove love to the person on the stage and to prove to themselves that they're brave."
    The 30-year-old photographer, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, said the crowds who press forward during the music festival is mostly younger and male. However, there is a woman he thinks is in her 60s who is ever-present at many of the venues and somehow makes her way to the first row.
    From Quintao's photos, it might appear that the action on the stage is secondary to the rush in the crowd. Quintao trains his camera on what he believes is the most unpredictable places to get the most emotional images at the events.
    "Sometimes the artist behind the microphone just doesn't move, the light doesn't change and a few pictures already present what the gig was," he said. "But the front row is always unpredictable; it changes every time. People reaching their physical limit just to be as close as possible to their idol is much more interesting than the planned and controlled situation happening on the stage."

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    The subjects of his lens have described themselves as proud to go through such pain for their musical adulation, and they proclaim "the front row is only for the real ones" on the Facebook page of his projects.
    "People who face this situation until the end of the concert go home feeling they've received an honor medal for being strong," Quintao said. "Who wants to see the concert comfortably from an empty space?"
    While he's never seen a serious injury from his position in the pit, the space between the stage and the crowd, Quintao hopes his photos do justice to the level of emotions portrayed in the name of fandom. He thinks the people in the front row believe they answer to a higher calling.
    "The aim of this work is to show the power of fanaticism," he said. "I wanted to show how a rock concert can be similar to a religion cult, where sometimes people submit themselves to suffering just to prove their love to their idol."
    Gabriel Quintao is a Brazilian photographer based in Sao Paulo. You can follow his work on Facebook.