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.