Taking Photos during Concerts - Yay or Nay?

So apparently, Amanda Palmer sat on someone's camera and snatched someone elses phone during a concert recently. All in good spirit, mind you, and intended to educate us to enjoy the show instead of taking pictures all the time.

So, should you take photos during a concert?

Diving right in I admit: I like taking photos during concerts. It helps me remember and relive all those special moments. Is that wrong? I also publish my photos on Flickr and Twitter, so I guess there is an element of showing off involved.

But can you really stop people from taking photos? I notice that most concert tickets still state that photos and videos are verboten, but how are you going to stop the audience, now that everybody has a mobile phone? When I was patted down on entrance to a Peter Gabriel concert recently (more for "security" than in search of cameras, I guess), the guard even missed the camera in my pocket.

I remember a concert by a band called JP, Chrissie and the Fairground Boys. Said Chrissie being Chrissie Hynde, who stormed on the stage, shouting Take your photos now!, indicating that she wouldn't want photos to be taken later on. So when people continued taking photos, she alternated between hiding behind her guitarist and giving the photographers the finger. Which only helped to make the show more stressful for both the audience and the artist. Most people eventually gave up trying to take photos, except for one rather obnoxious person who couldn't even be stopped by other members of the audience.

And that is really all I remember from that concert. Did they play music? I guess so, but I can't remember any of it over this stupid fight. The situation could probably have been defused by stating her request more calmly.

Amy Correia I didn't take any photos of Chrissie Hynde or the band on that evening. Ironically, a photo that I took of the opening act, Amy Correia, is now featured on her Wikipedia article.

A somewhat similar situation occured during a concert of Loreena McKennitt. The "no photos" rule was clearly communicated through signs on the doors. I don't remember the exact sequence of events, but Loreena did announce that she didn't want photos to be taken during the show but that there would be a point where they'd turn on the lights so that people could take their photos.

But that didn't work. People don't want staged photos, they want to capture the action. In this case, it was very annoying, even for the audience, since the room was very dark and all the flashes and displays were a huge distraction. Loreena gave in and switched on the lights earlier than planned but when they continued playing (in the dark again), people continued taking photos. I remember an announcement over the PA during the break, which helped a little (or maybe it was more because most people had taken their photos by then).

So, is the audience at fault?

For contrast: Just last week, I attended a concert by Youn Sun Nah. Granted, it was in a much smaller venue than Loreena McKennitt. Which helped make it a much more intimate experience (also mostly in the dark). The audience there was very disciplined - only a few people discreetly took a few photos. I had decided early on that it would be rude to pull out the camera and annoy my immediate neighbours with the glow of the display, so I didn’t take any photos.

In the end, I guess, it’s a draw. You can’t prevent the audience from taking photos, unless you want them to undergo security checks that would put the TSA to shame. The negative effects of forbidding photos (on the artist’s reputation and on the audience’s mood) are just not worth it. On the other hand, people taking photos can ruin things for the artist and for the rest of the audience. So be more discreet, please, and most importantly turn off that flash!

Coming back to Amanda Palmer: She doesn’t really seem to mind being photographed. But she wants people to enjoy her shows more (and let others enjoy it, too). So take those photos and then put away the camera and enjoy the moment!

In the meantime, I’m glad to see that one of my random shots at Amanda’s concert in Cologne made someone happy :)

Creative Commons Licence "Taking Photos during Concerts - Yay or Nay?" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.


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