Beaches + Per Purpose + Occults @ Black Bear Lodge, 14.06.2013

Beaches @ Black Bear Lodge, Friday 14 June 2013

Everyone is a photographer these days. If you’ve been to a gig in the last few years you will have no doubt noticed the fact.  From mobile phone cameras, through digital compacts and all the way to DSLRs, everyone is at it.  For better or worse, everyone is at it.  For worse is the change in photographer etiquette that you see at the front of shows and in photo pits.

I can remember a photographer going down to Sydney to photograph some big event or other (possible Wave Aid) and coming back saying that the pit experience was awful, nothing like you would get in Brisbane, a dog-eat-dog situation with little in the way of niceties, pleasantries or courtesy as all the (presumably mostly) Sydney photographers fought to get their shots with little consideration of anyone else in the photo pit.

Brisbane has been fairly good in terms of photographers behaving themselves, although I have noticed some bad practices creeping in over the last couple of years.

I still try and keep to a three song limit at most of the shows I go to, even if there’s no limit.  Sometimes I will go four songs, maybe five songs.  I always try to remember to keep my camera turned on just in case something photographing happens (although I failed at the recent Trail Of The Dead show when I put my camera away in my bag after photographing the first four songs of the first set, only to them completely miss out on the opportunity to photograph singer/guitarist Conrad Keely as he went crowd surfing with his guitar at the end of the night).  Sometimes the lighting is so bad that you pretty much have to though, just to make sure that you’ve got something you can use.  Sometimes you have to wait until the subject is stood in exactly the right place on the stage to have any light on them, this might mean that you only take a couple of photos in a song.  But I’ve always thought it discourteous to stand right at the front and photograph the whole set, both for the performer(s) and the audience stood behind you.

I’ve always considered that there is a boundary between the musician(s) and the photographer and that the boundary line is the stage.    The stage is not my domain and it’s off-limits unless explicitly by invitation.  (The only time I can remember photographing from the stage was for Crystal Castles at Big Day Out a couple of years ago when no photographers were allowed in the photo pit and everyone who was there was instructed to photograph from the side of the stage.  It was a fairly surreal moment to be in that position, having the view that the bands get, looking out onto a packed Boiler Room. Annoyingly the photographers in the prime positions at the front of the stage maintained their places for the whole three songs, rather than give the photographers at the back an opportunity to photograph from there.  What was I saying about photographer etiquette again?).

At the recent Matt & Kim show, there was a photographer on the stage during Citizen Kay’s support set and, although clearly there by invitation, it was annoying as at times it was difficult for anyone photographing from in front of the stage to take a photograph without him loitering in the background.

The reason for this subject matter for this post is that at tonight’s show a photographer was sat on the side of the stage and trying to keep out of the passage way at the side of the stage by stretching his legs out along the side of the stage.  He might know the band and have been invited to be on the stage, I don’t know.  What I found irritating about it was that the photographer adopted this position while the band were still setting up and still moving between being onstage and offstage, with the photographer being in the way and the members of the band having to navigate themselves around the photographer.  Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think photographers should be getting in the way of the band when they’re setting up .

In the meantime, the photographer was happily snapping away at the band setting up.  I’m all for taking photos of the band setting up and tuning up.  Sometimes you can get really nice photos from it, and sometimes it’s the best lighting the band have, before getting the lights turned down/off and playing in the dark (most of the Per Purpose photos in this set are from them setting up, it was too dark to get much from their actual performance).  But if you’re sat on the stage, leaning in and taking photos of the band from maybe 50 cm away from them while they’re setting up, I think that you’ve probably crossed a boundary.  Even if you don’t realise this immediately, the uncomfortable look on the guitarist’s face as you’re taking photographs of her probably should give you a clue that you’re invading her personal space.

As music photographers, we’re pretty much the lowest-of-the-low in the hierarchy of importance to the music industry.  It’s important to try to not give the musicians more reasons to dislike us and to give the music industry another reason to make life more difficult for us.

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