Concert Photography Criticized

Source: Got Live If You Want It (On My Flickr Page), Eric Harvey

I ran across this posting earlier today and, as an amateur photographer, felt two things: (1) wow, I’m annoyed too and (2) some mixed emotion towards defending amateur photographers. The gist of it is that amateur photographers, in their quest to fill their own self-worth, have descended upon the music scene like vultures; hovering and picking at whatever they can grab. The situation wavers between “you should allow it” and “you should ban it.” But then again, are these people actual amateur photographers or people who bought a DSLR because they could afford it with little thought to photography as an art form?

I’ve shot in two forms of media since 2002; video and then photography. My first experiences were filming Mustard Plug and Apocalypse Hoboken, the Lawrence Arms, and Bear vs. Shark. In nearly all cases, I asked the band, merch, or tech permission before the performance. Otherwise it feels subversive. In this age of easier-to-use media, I’ll tell the band they can do whatever they want with the photos (hopefully with recognition) and send them a password-protected website to view and save the full files, usually the next day. If they let you shoot, it’s the right thing to give them access to it as gratitude. I shoot with a DSLR. It provides the control I desire. Why concerts? Because it’s far more exciting due to the sheer difficulty, not for recognition. I’ve photographed since 2002 and most of my inspiration comes from urban or landscape photography. However, I receive the most inspiration when I combine my two loves; photography and music. It’s difficult to pull a clean shot with low lighting (or none) coupled with constant motion. I’d love to be able to do it without using flash, and prefer those shots because it captures colors and the movements of the moment. However, I recognized that maybe I should learn to use this thing I once despised, which is evident in my latest Dr Manhattan/The Felix Culpa photographs. I still feel bad about using it, but you need to practice before you can pace yourself-which I will do next time I’m in that environment.

Lately, I’ve noticed the same thing Eric noted; annoying photographers. The ones who literally can breathe the same breath of the musician because they’re so close. It disturbs the vibe as much as dozens of camera phones abruptly coming out of the middle of nowhere around you, like you’re about to get abducted by SMS messengers. I try to stay low and out of the way as much as possible. I am annoyed as much as the next fan if someone disturbs that transcending sensation a good concert can give you. The worst one I’ve experienced, while photographing, was this photographer with a DSLR in one hand and a massive external flash in the other, connected by a thick cord. One arm goes up one way, the other goes up in the other direction; kinda like the Y in YMCA, but intrusive and followed by a flashbulb. THAT is the photography that should be banned. If you want to use that setup in the crowd, please…start your own business shooting press shots for musicians.

In my opinion, a concert photographer should (1) receive permission and (2) don’t get in the way of the performance. If you can balance your artistic endeavors and the musicians’, then shoot away. If you want to be the drunk tall guy who slurs his words, but with a DSLR instead of beer-stop. Please. And learn to be more considerate.

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