I’ll Throw A Boot At You…Err, I Mean A T-Rex

Recently I went to a show at a hole-in-the-wall venue called Death by Audio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. All the groups that I managed to catch perform were pretty sweet, and it felt like the audience as a whole generally had a grand old time, even despite the fact that the headliner went MIA and couldn’t be reached via all those snazzy communication devices people now carry on their person day and night. The neurosis of an artist trumps the incessant pull of technology once again. Personally, I didn’t go to see him specifically, but had heard through the grapevine that he was of the temperamental sort, which probably is also the creative force that allows him to reach an audience.

Regardless of the personal demons and tribulations put forth, there was one group of people at the show that made it hard to stay immersed and engaged in the music being presented for our listening pleasure. This group was the “photojournalists.” Now I’m not sure if any or all of them worked for legitimate music magazines or papers, or if they were simply photo enthusiasts with personal blogs, but I kind of assume the latter. There’s no real basis for this assessment, other than the lack of professionalism displayed throughout the show.

Death by Audio is a pretty small performance space, maybe with a capacity of seventy-five or eighty people with standing room only. This is perfect for up-and-coming artists to have an intimate show where they can achieve a sublime connection with the audience. Too bad the front row did not consist of loyal fans ready and willing to exchange positive energy with the bands.

Instead, there were no less than five people at any given time pointing digital SLR cameras all around and frantically taking pictures, half the time with flashes. I’m all for the documentation of live events and understand that pictures can turn an average re-accounting of something into an enthralling journey. But I’m sick and tired of having to witness people learning how to use their camera equipment and treating the live show I paid good money to enjoy as there own personal photo shoot.

Part of what has allowed this scenario to become a somewhat regular occurrence is the recent innovations in digital cameras. It’s now relatively affordable to get a decent camera body with some lenses that can create stellar images, and without many upkeep costs to be able to shoot a ridiculous amount of footage. SD cards have become a godsend for amateurs who use the volume of what they shoot to cover up the fact that they don’t really know how to use the camera’s settings to get the best quality images. The can simply switch settings seemingly at random and hope for the best, taking an exorbitant amount of pictures along the way.

Before the rise of the digital, this approach would have resulted in a high cost and a fair amount of time in the form of purchasing and processing the necessary amount of film. Now all the would-be Ansel Adams simply can plug into their MacBook and drag and drop their mediocre efforts over to Photoshop the bejesus out of them to end up with something passable.

Again, I just want to reiterate that I’m actually all for these technological leaps in image making; I’m simply pointing out that a certain level of craftsmanship formerly used to obtain the end results is being lost. I don’t know, maybe it’s merely a shift into the post-production and editing, but something seems to be flawed with this approach. Why not find a way to create the effect in the present moment rather than spend time in front of a computer fixing things. I understand that it isn’t always possible to control the circumstances of a shoot, but sometimes I feel that it’s just laziness or incompetence on the part of the photographers.

But that’s not the issue at hand. These are just the present circumstances that allow people to be obnoxious in the manner they document a live event. My issue really boils down to simply a matter of etiquette and respect that apparently a number of people with high quality cameras are lacking in this day and age.

Flashes going off every couple of seconds are distracting for both the audience and performers. This coupled with a jackass in a striped shirt helping himself onstage and wandering around taking pictures in the midst of the performance was just about enough to make me want to punch someone in the face. It seems that gathering images for posterity’s sake has surpassed the importance of actual experience. Proving that you were there has more value than merely enjoying the moment for what it is.

There were a couple of instances where I came dangerously close to becoming violent towards the pseudo photojournalists, especially during Prince Rama’s set. One of the chuckleheads had the audacity to turn around and glare daggers at me when I accidentally bumped into while moving to the music. I’m soooo sorry to disrupt your photography session, it’s not like I paid good money to see this show and want to be able to groove to those phat beats. Plus I’m pretty sure you got that same shot at least fifteen times in the last couple of minutes anyway.

The worst of it was by far the guy in the striped shirt. He waltzed up onto the stage, getting uncomfortably close to the performers for that killer close up, and then taking some pictures from the perfect vantage point of the rears of the rockers. Yeah, that’s the best way to capture their exuberance and energy. He would break this up with periodically ducking halfway behind the speaker and holding the camera at arms length, getting crowd and artist shots. That’s perfect form, and clearly the best way to be both obtrusive and get shitty images. Throughout all of this, his flash was on full blast.

All I can say is he is very lucky that Prince Rama consists of people who in my own personal experience have been nothing but compassionate, peaceful and positive towards whoever they come in contact with, or else he would have gotten a Tyrannosaurus Rex with bells attached to it pelted at his precious Canon camera and face. I had a gut feeling that the members of the band would frown upon one of their awesome audience participation percussion pieces being used a projectile weapon, even if the target was an annoying photojournalist who is so self-centered he feels the entire show is there to be used to further his fledgling journalism career.

It wasn’t just me that was irritated with him either. During the show I was worried that I was being too sensitive about his stage presence. But when the set ended I heard several other patrons grumble comments about what a jackass the striped shirt cameraman was, which led me to the conclusion that I wasn’t creating the scenario inside my head, but rather he was a bona-fide self-absorbed asshole.

Call me old fashioned, call me what you will, but I’m of the mindset that the documenting of a show shouldn’t disrupt the enjoyment of those in attendance. But maybe that’s just me.

Originally posted 11/4/10