Thursday, September 12, 2013

Do you take pictures at concerts?

My Morning Jacket at Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavilion in 2012
Effective immediately, I am not taking another picture at a concert.

I sincerely hope I can hold true to this statement, for my “Instagram (Shows/Concerts)” FB photo album has been a source of pride since I started logging my concert pics. Although I believe I am not contributing to the problem, I wish this may be an opportunity to become a part of its solution.

On one level, concert photo taking (especially if you are using a “statue of liberty” method) is a very selfish move as the action not only blocks views from fellow concert attendees but also creates a visible distraction for anybody in eye-shot. Its bothered me for a while, and I’ve tried to keep my phone below my already tallish height, but it wasn’t until I started hearing complaints from artists that are making me want to keep my phone in my pocket.

Björk's message at the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival
The turning point for me was at this past summer’s Pitchfork Music Festival, where Björk posted a simple and polite message requesting for people to refrain from picture taking / video recording during the show. She cited the distracting element to her personal performance in addition to the worry of people robbing themselves of an optimal live experience. It created a noticeable difference in my enjoyment – I felt a responsibly was lifted (because I tend to really want one good picture, which comes with various levels of difficulty).

Further supporting the idea, while reading Lollapalooza performer interviews, one of my all-time favorites (Foals) didn’t understand why so many fans are inside their phones during their shows. It doesn’t necessarily bother them, but I can understand how odd it might feel  to see fans paying increasing amounts of attention to them through phones than in reality. And then there was the report I heard from the Newport Folk Festival, in which The Lumineers literally stopped their mega hit “mid-Hey” requesting for people to enjoy the moment instead of capturing it.

Most everyone respects the picture taking requests of dramatic theater and live comedy performances. Why are musicians not extended the same courtesy? When I look at it from this perspective, having never considered taking a picture during a comedy show, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to quit.

More importantly, I’ve realized I’m just being a show braggart. For me, it started in December 2009 when I joined Instagram. Since then, I’ve been using it to keep record (no pun intended) of which shows I have attended. I can accomplish this through other means (the leading candidate: taking a picture of something off the band’s merch table) that won’t negatively affect the experience for the performers or fellow concertgoers.
Could not have said it better than this graphic from DO312

Quick clarification: I have never recorded video at a show. People that record entire songs need to be stopped and punished to the fullest extent of social embarrassment allowed by law. I am referring to fellow amateurs – not the expert photographers I follow on Twitter that have much better photo equipment and credentials than I.

I’m not asking you to stop taking pictures. Hopefully all pictures you snap are taken with the respect of everyone else in mind. This is something I think will make concerts better for me – and it’s that selfishness that first started my picture taking that’s going to make my new practice successful.

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