On Concert Camera Policies - A Rant
It’s happened often because I almost always refuse to go somewhere without a camera: I get to a concert venue entrance for the security check, they look in my bag, poke it, and tell me I have to do something about my camera - either get rid of it or check it with the coats. I oblige, go to the hall, and find myself surrounded throughout the entire concert with people either sticking a camera or a cell phone up in the air, snapping away. I’m happy with the freedom of jumping around without worry of breaking my camera, but I am admittedly bummed about not getting to practice concert shots and not getting to take home what I consider to be a souvenir for most events in my life: a snapshot. All while everyone else seems to get to.
I’m quite used to this phenomenon now, but frankly I find the whole thing to be complete and utter bullshit.
Mostly it bothers me because this happens when I carry around my main toy, my Nikon D60 (a DSLR, and my only digital), with a nice and short 35 mm prime popped on it. It’s annoying as fuck because although I love my baby, it’s a piece of shit as far as DSLRs go. It’s only good at a few things, and anything you’d get for the same price these days is like… 10x better.
The reason I get singled out though is because it looks fancy. It’s “big”. To the average security guard, it’s not a powerless piece of plastic, it’s a professional’s super camera. It’s rare that you get a concert with a zero-cameras policy where you have to go back to your car/house to put it away *coughBobDylancough* - usually guards are clearly told to keep out pro cameras and let your run of the mill point & shoots through. But in a day and age when cameras get better and at a smaller size, how reasonable is this rule? Some of my favorite concert pics are from my point & shoot Olympus film baby; iPhone cameras get ridiculously better every edition, and it’s proven that all an iPhone/other “low end” camera pic needs is good lighting; the POYI photojournalism award the NYT got was with HIPSTAMATIC pictures. And what about MILC cameras? Powerful, small, with interchangeable lenses. You can definitely make some sweet pro looking pics with an Olympus PEN and would make it through a security line every. single. time.
I think I understand why the policies exist, on a certain level. It’s a form of image control for the artist and the venue, and also ensures an empty market for the photographer that they’ve actually hired. (Are there other reasons I should be aware of?)
But when there’s already a “no images from this event can be used for profit because of copyright issues” policy in place, why does it matter what quality the fans’ pictures are? When the image (artist/image/lighting/otherwise) is already protected legally in terms of distribution, doesn’t that take care of it? You can’t sell pictures commercially without model release forms (the models in this case being the band). And in an age of internet overshare people are going to get snapshots of the experience no matter what, so why does it matter what kind of camera they are taken with? So what if a fan produces a good image, by accident or otherwise? Why the need to not care if fans spread images, as long as they suck?
I (and I’m sure as well most photography enthusiasts at all skill/equipment levels) view every time I’m snapping away as practice. And personally, I’ve always found music performance photography to be the coolest, and always want the chance to improve. But I’ve come to realize that at a certain point (without trying to drudge my way up the band scale of gig photography) I can’t get practice with certain lighting/performance situations because my equipment isn’t allowed inside. This irks me. And brings me to my next point.
My second main beef with camera policies apart from the size prejudice that occurs is that they appear only when the artist/band has become big enough. To me, it’s the sign that the band you’re following has made it - when they get to perform in a venue big enough to even have a camera policy. When you go to a show in a dinky cafe or a venue that plays almost exclusively up and comers, people give zero fucks about how many pictures you take or with what camera. They probably see it for what it is: free grassroots publicity. And I mean, they need the fans, so why piss them off? I know it’s silly but when a band “crosses over,” there’s almost a pang in my heart like, “what do you mean you’re too big now to let me love you the way I want to?”
This points to another problem of mine, that it’s usually the venue that has the policy, not the artist. Why do the venues care so fucking much? Maybe this part I’m missing information on, but I don’t really see why it’s their place to be so uptight about it.
To those who say you don’t expect to be able to take pictures at an orchestral concert or other such “classy” art forms where you often require a seat, I call bullshit. Many big name, “classy” art museums let you take pictures, others don’t. (I’ve never understood why some museums allow it while others are total freaks about it. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all about money.) For dance it’s a safety issue for the dancers and also a means of keeping choreography unstealable (much more logical than keeping what an musician looks like while playing on lockdown), and also to make sure people will have to buy tickets to experience the art. The appropriate equivalent for music would be preventing pirating, not photography. The physical experience of a concert is not cheapened nor somehow gained by seeing a picture. For classical music, the decorum is a part of the genre experience. You dress nice, sit in your seat, and are quiet. That is how you interact with that type of music. For most other genres that is not the case, so I’d say you can throw classical music’s expectations for photography out the window. Also, there are many informal situations such as outdoor concerts (classical and chamber music included) where you are free to take pictures when you otherwise might be expected not to.
So again, it’s all about the venue, and how they feel about it. So what gives? What key answer am I missing out on guys? Why do certain venues have a stick up their butts? It doesn’t necessarily have to do with the fame of the place - I’ve gone to equally famous venues with opposite camera policy stances. So what makes one different from the other?
Just let me take my goddamn pictures, please.
- emturner posted this