A blog for Joe Henry fans

zondag 29 april 2018

Filming/Taking pictures during concerts

It was during Lizz Wright’s concert in Brussels that I really got confronted again with the consequences of smartphones during live concerts. For example, in the past I’ve seen people checking their social media during concerts, but it is another thing that I’d like to talk about this time:

Taking pictures or filming during a concert. 

The thing that frustrated me the most was the filming, or taking snapshots using a flashlight. If I’m at a concert I’d like to focus on the stage, not the seats around me. Because that’s what the flashlight does. It illuminates a huge part of the audience and takes away your focus from what’s happening on stage. If someone is sitting in front of you, and is filming, you are distracted by that little screen. What people do during a show is not really my business, but the person in front of me was even showing the clip he just filmed to his companion sitting next to him, and because of that, they completely missed out on the song being performed live in front of us, and it was affecting my experience of the concert. There you had Lizz Wright, singing ‘Grace’… live. You will never be able to have such an experience looking at a screen. You just have to witness it completely live and feel what that does to you!

I decided a while ago, not to do it anymore. Yes, you read it correctly: ‘Decided’ and ‘not anymore’. Indeed, I used to do it occasionally. What was the reason I did it? It turned out to be a question much easier to ask, then to answer. It really got me thinking. I concluded that I did it because, on social media, I liked (and still like) to share my experience of concerts, and with that, I wanted to offer some visuals with it. I am one of those ‘smartphone less’ dinosaurs, so I took a small camera with me, that fitted in my jacket or in my backpack. I was conscience, in advance, that I was going to take pictures. I didn’t do it with every concert. The one concert was dearer to me than the other, and that triggered me to take pictures. So there lays the reason I completely stopped doing it.

If the concert is so dear to me? Why don’t I simply enjoy it? Why am I occupying myself with that device, instead of just enjoying the concert? I truly have a much bigger experience of a concert if I just look at it and am not trying to look at a camera to check the frame.

So that’s me dealing with this issue. I didn’t evolve to stopping with it, I actually decided it at a certain moment. You will read a little further that there still are sometimes events that I am taking pictures. It’s always work related, so I’m not really enjoying a night out, but I’m actually at work. I’m not saying this to look for excuses, I just want to paint the entire picture.

Filming or taking photos during shows is something that happens very commonly these days, but not everywhere. For example in theater it is generally accepted not to use a camera. But theater is, like concerts, a live stage art. Why does it work there, and not in all stage arts? During Classical concerts there is also a bigger tendency to keep the device in your pocket. Is it because these are more formal events? Is it because we learned in school, with such arts, that you should focus on the play in order to experience it all, and not distract artists or other audience members? No one ever told us, the same counts for more popular shows. I think it does.
So why do we do it during concerts? Reflecting on that, the following possibilities came to mind.

  • You want to give the opportunity to others, who were not there, to have a glimpse of the show. This is something that already existed long before smartphones and social media were invented. Bootlegs have been made ever since music could be recorded. The differences with the past are that bootlegs used to be rare, because not everyone had the gear, and you really had to do it sneaky. If you got caught, you had no taping. Also, the rest of the audience weren’t distracted by it, since it happened sneakingly.
  • Perhaps you just want to take a bit of the experience home with you, to re-live it in the following days. Personally, I don’t think that is possible. You missed an experience during the show, and never can re-live it afterwards.
  • It could be a reflex. We are so used to doing everything with our phone. From the moment we wake up, we are almost constantly involved with it. It becomes hard to leave it in your pocket. It feels weird not using it.
  • Perhaps you were asked by someone else to take footage for them. A position where I find myself sometimes in. Although I’m not a professional photographer, at that moment I’m making work-related pictures. The organization is in these cases informed of what and why I’m taking pictures. But I am aware that I probably am distracting other people.
  • Maybe you just want to show your friends, and the world that you were there, and they missed out.
  • Quite possibly there are other reasons as well….

 How do we need to deal with this phenomenon? I don’t know. The one audience member is more sensitive to it than another, and the same goes for artists. Some artists integrate the use of devices in their shows, others don't want you to use it. An artist can address his audience about it when he prefers that you don’t do it. As an audience member it is tougher to speak up about it. You have a slight chance to piss of the ones who are filming, and completely ruin the evening for yourself, and everyone around you.

There is another element about it. Now I only spoke of shooting yourself, but what with clips you find on the internet, clips other people made? I use them on social media, even on this blog. I am aware these are made in a fashion I just criticized. In a way, these are all documentations of something that happened. You have the ‘official information’ coming from live DVD’s, professional photographers, official live streams…. And then you have the ‘unofficial footage’, and that can also be worth it.
There are events that happen, maybe one time, maybe only in 1 continent, … where no ‘official’ footage exists. (or is released). Yes, then I’m happy someone else filmed it.
Sometimes someone filmed in such a specific angle or view, you can witness something closely that you were normally never able to see: A solo from a musician, an unforeseen moment,…. Yes, then I’m happy someone filmed that.

When I went to see Jack White perform a few years ago, the audience was asked not to take pictures or film during the show. There would be enough good pictures of every show on his website. Off course that didn’t stop people doing it, so now he doesn’t want people bringing their smartphones. I don’t see how you are going to organize that on such a scale. He is sensitive to it, and I think we should respect that. But what would make it possible for people to keep the device in their pocket? …. I don’t know.

All I want to ask or give as a reflection on this phenomenon are 2 things: If you like to film, don’t use flashlights. They are extremely annoying. And secondly, I’d like you to ask yourself: “Why am I filming/taking pictures?  Is it really worth it for me, or others? "

I hope to see all of you at concerts and enjoy it together. And yes, it is true, if you got to shoot something that shows us something of exceptional value, then I’m glad you shot it.

Note: Brussels venue Ancienne Belgique (where I saw Lizz Wright) participated in an audience survey.
  • 30% of AB visitors would welcome a ban on filming with smartphones was 1 of the results.

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