Editorial: Concert or Press Conference?

by Phil “Philamonjaro” Solomonson

This wasn’t a concert, it was a press conference.
mmmm…. after photographing the amazing opening act at House of Blues tonight, I walked out on the headline act, BB King because from the main floor, I was surrounded by so many phone cameras above heads recording video, I simply had to leave. I tried closing my eyes for extended moments of time and enjoyed it. Yet I couldn’t scrub that visual. A digital feeding frenzy. The average concert has turned into a camera spectacle. The worst example is a selfie shot, back to the stage, artist in the background with the flash going off in the artist eyes. Really?

[pullquote]The average concert has turned into a camera spectacle.[/pullquote]

Help me. I’m conflicted. I consider the majority of my body of work concerts and performances. What makes me the arbitrator of good or bad audience behavior? Maybe having been a performing arts presenter in my early career? To this very day, loud candy wrappers during the symphony is still akin to scratching-chalkboards-with-my-fingernails.
I’ve photographed around 400 live music performances. And to get here, I often done what I’m complaining about, shooting rouge in the house.

But there is a difference.

I have a personal photography code.
– Attempt to be as invisible as possible to both the artist and the audience around me. Many people have paid good money to see a live stage act, not your display. Many people have traveled, put much time, money and resources in bringing you their best show possible.
– I pardon myself to those around me and try to be brief. People appreciate the manners.
– Video taping is stealing. But the truth of the matter is to properly record video, it takes a ton of work. If I’m going to do it, I do it right..
– Stealing that 2 minute clip contributes to making media, bad, cheap, disposable and devalued.
– With today’s basic camera functions and IOS settings, their is no reason to shoot flash. All a camera flash screams is “hey look at me! I don’t know how to, or care enough to correctly operate my phone’s camera app..”
– I still believe in magic on the stage. My greatest achievement is bringing forth the romance and mystique of the performers. That takes time, practice and technique. I spend no less that 6 hours on any given performance. Festivals? Count in days. I value what I invest in.
– I consider the performer. Hundreds of cameras shooting off continually? This must run the gamut from disorienting to dangerous. I know Jack White doesn’t want it, Frampton will toss your phone across the stage and Buddy Guy’s doctor says no flash.
– I consider a big part of my job is to know when to put the camera down. I promise you I wanted to get a few BB shots for myself, but I didn’t, and of course I couldn’t if I want to anyway.

I’m painting with light in a frenzied room of photocopies. Ironically, the handful of pro/am photographers generally can only photo the first three songs and are watched like a hawk. Conversely I do not want to breech a relationship. At the same time surrounded by hundreds of screens. I talk to and befriend many concert photographers. This is the prevailing sentiment.

As a concert goer, a production person, venue, artist, photographer or a bro with a cell phone, please help shed life on this topic. If any of this resonates with you, please comment, reply, hit me up off-list, repost, share and/or speak up at concerts.

Phil Solomonson

Phil Solomonson

BIO: Phillip Solomonson, AKA Philamonjaro is a digital media producer, photographer and former performing arts presenter based near downtown Chicago. His photographic interests center upon outsider artists, concert imagery and street photography. Fire artist, musical acts, aerial silks performers and steam punks are amongst his favorite subjects.To date Phil has photographed over 400 live acts spanning 5 decades, over 70 venues in 13 states and Costa Rica. His concert images are published in the examiner.com, thebigtakeover.com, pennyblackmusic.co.uk and 69facesofrock.com among others. He is slating 2015 to publish his 16 years of photography at The Burning Man Festival.

More Posts - Website