Antonio Pantoja (pan-toe-ha) first got into photography because he wanted to take good pictures of his daughter on a decent camera. He thought his wife would kill him when she called from her vacation in Mexico, and he told her he had spent $600 on a camera. Since then, his desire to photograph his daughter has turned into an obsession and a lucrative business, winning him multiple awards for film and photography with cameras that cost thousands.
While his wife was on vacation, he realized his new camera had video capabilities and decided to follow his daughter around. He received positive feedback after uploading the video to Youtube. Some people said they cried when they watched it and that he should consider doing it more often. It was when his father died in 2009 that Pantoja noticed the power of film through a short five second clip of his father taken just 9 days before his dad's unexpected death.
"I realized that these moments can live on forever through film," said Pantoja. "I was addicted."
Pantoja really began to take things to another level with fashion photography, working with many other locals, including Clay Cook, who is his partner at Glass Label(their film production company). The two have won multiple awards together (see more below). He has also worked with an impressive list of creative professionals, designers, and models including Grammy award winner Royce Da 5'9", Miss America 2012 Laura Kappeler, and Project Runway's Gunnar Deatherage. Pantoja shares a deep friendship with his favorite make-up artist, Raina Trimble. Many of his portfolio photos include both of their last names.
Pantoja says that he is really transitioning into a fine art photographer. He loves fine art photography with people in it and seeing beauty emerge from something that is not your stereotypically "beautiful" photo. Many of his photos feature strange landscapes or interesting creature - like characters. Although he loves photography, film is moving in as a new favorite form of expression.
"I love creating things that will make someone emotional. It's really tough to do that with photography," he said. "With video, I feel that I am able to tell a story that matches my vision from beginning to end. Photography leaves much room for interpretation, which is sometimes, in my opinion, not good."
In some ways, Pantoja is not unlike most artists. He said that he usually has some underlying or subliminal message he'd like to get across in his videos. In photography, he hopes people are able to see beauty in something they normally wouldn't. In other ways, he stands out from most artists, because of his dedication and attention to detail; he has spent over 30 hours editing just one photo before.
"I think it has such a redeeming quality when you have that marquee moment of this beauty emerging from something that you may have never considered before."
His work has been seen in print and on screen. Notable publications like Dark Beauty and Fashion World have featured his photography, while ESPN and MTV-U have featured some of his videos. You can find some his work via the internet and at film festivals. He was just recently mentioned and quoted in Lexington's weekly paper Ace in an article about the upcoming Filmslang festival. Some of the 16 awards he has received over the last year have come from the Louisville 48 Hour Film Project, The Floyd Film Festival, and the KYMP KAMP awards; he says he is most proud of winning "Best Cinematography" two years in a row at the Louisville 48 Hour Film Project.
Pantoja doesn't plan to stop finding success any time soon. He really wants to work on a feature film and was granted the rights to produce "The Woman in the Room," a short story by Stephen King. He also plans to enter "The ABC's of Death" competition, since horror is his favorite genre. If he had all the money in the world to create a project, he said he would "do a horror film that you'd have to watch on the toilet, because it would literally scare the shit out of you."
Photographs provided by Antonio Pantoja
Sampling of his video work: