I think I’m becoming the cliche of Angry Old Man syndrome (there’s this joke that’s gone around for years that I have bigger balls than most guys, I’m a girl incase you’re reading this and don’t actually know me), especially where music photography is concerned. First there were a few issues which brought up a conversation on sexism in the industry – something that was discussed at the WAM seminars last year and actually exists despite what some people like to think. Fun fact but just because you haven’t experienced it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. One show had the door guy having ten kids of fits over “people asking for freebies” to my having a photo pass, like I’m working pretty hard for a freebie. I’m risking my gear (and feet and head since my head is normally at elbow level) amongst a moshpit of drunk people who forget what boundaries are, splash beer around or just don’t see you. Another show had a power tripping security guy who had no issues with the male photographer staying in the pit longer or doing whatever the hell he wanted side of stage, meanwhile I was repeatedly asked to show my pass and told I had to leave. Apart from this though is just the general attitude promoters/venues/bands/I-don’t-know-whoever-the-hell-is-in-charge-of -this-stuff have where photographers are 2nd class citizens. Now I may never get another photo pass as long as I live for writing my thoughts and I don’t really care because last night I got to photograph Green Day and that’s pretty much the highlight of my life where music photography is concerned. There’s really no topping that. Which is what inspired me to write this..
Whenever there is a tour of some kind a bunch of us will raise our hands in interest in reviewing or photographing a show. Due to reasons (I own a stupid spine, lack of money and I can’t drive) I tend to only raise my hand to bands I really would like to see live. Reviewers always get a +1 [Edit: I’ve been informed this isn’t true but every show I’ve been at the reviewer has had a +1]. Photographers never do. In the past 3 years I think I’ve had three + 1’s and two of them I didn’t know I had until I arrived at the show. The only band to give a heads up with this was the Misfits concert about two years ago. Somewhere there was a huge lack of communication in letting the publication or myself know this so they go to waste. The L7 show I was lucky enough to let a friend know just before she left work so she could head straight there. In part I’m ok with never getting a +1 because I don’t really like the idea of thinking people are only friends with me to get free entry to a show. Like it’s nice to be given one but it’s not a necessity. I’m generally pretty happy to be given the privilege of photographing a band I really enjoy and I’ve decided I like photo pits more than +1’s. For me +1’s were great while I had anxiety – especially last year when it got really bad – but not so much anymore.
Last year was the first concert ever where I was told at the time of gaining a photo pass that I would have to leave the show as soon as the 3-song rule was over. I’d never heard of such a thing in my life. The reviewers +1 went to me and on the night found out from staff that no it was ok for me to stay and watch without her +1.
Normally at shows you’re allowed to hang back as long as your camera is packed up. Shows at Metro I’ve been allowed upstairs to take photos from a different viewpoint and sat up there to watch the whole show by myself without any issues.
My first big agro this year was over the Cyndi Lauper/Blondie concert. This was my first time shooting from the sound desk so I borrowed a friends zoom lens which made me glad I didn’t rent a lens because the 200mm still wasn’t enough to get decent shots. I only sent in three photos to Wall Of Sound because they all looked identical but a couple of the guys shooting had lenses so huge they should have been able to get moon craters clearly. I have no idea who they were shooting for so kept an eye on instagram incase anything was posted. I saw one great close up of Cyndi and assuming it was a photographer asked what lens he’d used. He was just a punter in the crowd, second row from the stage with his 50mm lens. We weren’t allowed anywhere near the stage or allowed to take photos outside of the 2-3 song rule. Which started the week-long rant of “Why do professional photographers have all these restrictions and rules yet EVERYONE else could get a photo in front of the stage?” I saw all the bag checking as I got there that night and assumed they were stopping cameras/booze. Nope.
I received my photo pass for Green Day on Friday and had to sign a contract. I was on a massive high and felt like the luckiest girl in the world which I know is a huge exaggeration but you have no idea how badly I wanted to photograph them. Like normal the reviewer scored a +1 and I was asked to respond with if I’d be photographing the support act. I replied with yes along with the signed contract and asked if the photo rules were also the same for that band and got no reply. Over the next 24 hours I heard mixed stories about photographers and media passes for this event so I wasn’t sure if I’d even be allowed to stay. So it ended up being a massive killjoy Sunday night to find out that after our 2-song limit for The Interrupters we were escorted from the building. Escorted. We weren’t even allowed to stay in the foyer where they have a bar/food area. So everyone who told me to check them out, yeah I couldn’t. I’ll just take your word on it about how great they are. I’m not even over reacting here. Once outside we were told to come back at 7:45pm for Green Day, where the process was going to be the same thing. To steal a line from Shannon Noll (who stole it from someone else but I was like 3 years old when that song came out and I can’t remember who it was and I’m not about to Google it) but “What about me? It isn’t fair!“. Seriously, why does a reviewer get to take his mate along for a free show but us photographers aren’t allowed to watch it? Just like the reviewer we’re there to do a job, how are we of less importance? And in all seriousness seven people weren’t going to block the entry ways from over crowding and there were seats available in the nose bleed area as well. But no, we weren’t allowed to stay at all. I can’t speak for all people but whenever I picked up street press or look at a site I’m looking at the photos, not the review. I own copies of Rolling Stone for the photos. Maybe that’s because I’m a photographer, but I loved looking at band photos from when I was a kid. I wasn’t big on the reading. Now I’m not saying the review isn’t important, and obviously the reviewer has to be there for the whole show to be able to review it properly, but I do think both are of equal importance. Both parties still have to go home and spend hour/s writing and editing their work before it’s published but can we all admit that this practice is unfair to photographers? Why does a random person get free entry to a show for doing nothing?
My hero that night was another photographer named Dan. I was complaining about not being able to see Green Day to another photographer friend (like we get to see bands at most shows) and Dan asks me if I want to see the show and hands me a concert ticket. I must have come across like a right dickhead cos I was in shock on why someone would just hand me a ticket. I can’t afford to go to concerts thats why I get photo passes (that and the fact I’m pretty short so for 2-3 songs I get to have a really good view of the band before moving back). Turned out he had tickets for himself and his wife and she couldn’t go anymore and he was unable to sell them. So I forced a hug on him. I honestly could have cried. This was the kindest gesture of all time (again maybe a gross exaggeration but I REALLY LOVE GREEN DAY GUYS!!!) and I couldn’t believe it was happening. Thanks to him I got to see the entire show after our 2-song limit. On the event page I’d seen the venue reply to a girl saying SLR’s with 50mm lenses are allowed into the show. I contemplated it for about 5 seconds because I did want to try a crowd shot but I wasn’t up for battling the crowd and wanted to enjoy the show instead. Enjoy it I did!