Being friends with bands and gig organizers, and being in a band myself got me into taking pictures of musical performances. The most crucial factor about being able to take great pictures of of musical performers is to be as near the stage as possible–I sometimes even find myself on the stage itself. Access to both space and opportunity, as with many things in life, is almost everything. Location, location, location.
But what about the times when you don’t have access, and you are actually seated at the nosebleed section of the arena?
Allow me to be a snob for a bit: I usually scoff at the idea of holding up a point-and-shoot camera or camera phone for the whole duration of the concert. I detest the idea that the joy of drinking in the whole live performance is being trumped by the compulsion of having to upload the video to Facebook or Youtube, of replacing the concert experience with anticipations of “likes”. Perhaps they find solace in a repeated memory, therefore the need and going through all the fuss to record it with your own gadget just to see it over and over again in their phone or computer screens in this generation’s method of reminiscing. I do not find fault in that, if that is what makes these people happy. I am just uncomfortable of the fact their basic memory of that moment would be their act of recording the concert, of how weary and shaky their hands and arms are from holding up their gadget; compare that to the memory and how bodies felt after dancing or moshing the whole night away, how heads buzzed as the performer led them through sonic landscapes, how you imagined yourself in a music video as the band played your favorite song in front of you–unless you do imagine yourself holding up your iPhone in that entire scene in the movie of your life.
I try to have as much fun as possible when I take photos of performers, especially when I’m a fan of my subject. Maybe that’s why I prefer to take pictures rather than videos because I can steal moments and not ruin an entire song or show for myself because of all the necessary twiddling and gadgeteering. I can still headbang or bust a quick awkward dance move in between shots. Whenever I go shooting at performances, I keep in mind that I’m not shooting a piece of the song (unless in-frame context dictates so). I realize these are action photos akin to sports, representing the physicality of a musical performance, trying to win hearts and minds beyond what flows out of the speakers. I realize they are portraits of people exposed by their music, of stage personas, of alter-egos, of heroes. Sometimes it is landscape photography, but one that capures the sea of fans, of storms in the pit, of torrents of singalongs, of hands in the air waving without care. And sometimes they are casual photos of friends in a party, intimate yet worth telling the whole world about.
Yes, I do feel envious of whoever holds a media pass and great camera gear in concerts, especially when all I am allowed to brandish is my phone’s camera from a distance my ticket dictates. But in concerts, I am first a music fan and a picture-taker second. I only got around taking pictures from the spectator seats when I got my iPhone 4s and decided to take Instagram a little bit more seriously than posting food I made (Follow me: peteytommy!). I realize I don’t have to take a lot of photos from where I sat–I only have a very limited range of angles and focal length to shoot from anyway–which actually works in my favor so I can enjoy the event more.
Here are some of the pictures I took (from my Instagram account):
Wanna know something awesome? I just knew a few hours ago that The Smashing Pumpkins’ Instagram account liked my photo. I just died. Most satisfying Instagram post. Ever. It’s one of the reasons I have to post this blog entry. It must be.
The Snow Patrol concert was perhaps the best lit I have ever seen, not taking anything away from that awesome floating sphere The Smashing Pumpkins installed in the middle of their stage.
This was my first time watching a live MMA event, something that made me consider dabbling on sports photography (Yes, I’m an MMA fan!). My friend Joel got us great seats for this one. Closer, but not close enough. Still a lot of fun.
So there we have it for now. I noticed all three photos were from the same venue, and I’m looking forward to either shooting and/or watching great events from other venues. I plan to post something about my exploits with my iPhone 4s camera and Instagram in the near future, as well as a few other blog posts populating in my mind’s to-do list.