Photography at Gigs. May 2012.

There’s a debate about photography at jazz gigs over on LondonJazz. A lot of people don’t like it – understandably. It is a topic that has been on my list to write about for a while…

Courtney Pine c1990 Wayne Shorter c1990

Here was my comment:

It is not professional v amateur photographers: it is people who show consideration to others in the audience against those who believe they have a right to disturb others.

I frequently take photographs at gigs. I believe I am sufficiently sensitive to the music to minimise disturbance to those around me: my camera’s screen is switched off so there is no light pollution, the autofocus aid is switched off so there are no red dots illuminating musicians, I don’t hold my camera above my head to get in the way of those behind me, nor do I stand (unless it’s a standing gig!).

I don’t take photographs in quiet passages with my SLR, I NEVER use flash (musicians hate it – it momentarily blinds them, dreadful if they are reading the music), I try to time my photograph to the beat and, most importantly, if I feel I will disturb anyone, I don’t take don’t take the picture. If it is apparent I am disturbing those around me, I stop.

If possible (ie small gigs!), I ask the musicians if they mind me taking pictures – I have only once been asked not to, because the musician in question wanted to control copyright of his image, and I happily complied.

Several musicians have told me how much they appreciate the photos I have taken: several have used them on their websites or CD covers.

I have frequently been disturbed at gigs by those given official sanction to take photographs – you may call them professional, but their attitude to the audience is one of disdain: they move around during numbers, get in people’s way and make a lot of noise. They often appear uninterested in the music.

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I could – maybe should – have added that if anyone asks me to stop, I do. It has only happened once. Years ago, using my old (non-digital, heavy, loud) SLR, I was taking pictures at a gig. The stranger next to me asked if I was actually going to take any – I had taken about 30, but she hadn’t been aware of the shutter at all.

There is a certain hypocrisy about venues asking people not to take pictures and then letting “professional” photographers wander around taking pictures.

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