Thursday, June 30, 2011

A recent experience as a photographer left me puzzled...

Miranda Lambert played her only club date of the year in Chicago at Joe's Bar June 23, to a sold out crowd who bought up tickets in record time and waited outside for hours before the show. Not at all surprising since she has escalated to the top of the country music world winning every award available over the recent year and selling millions of copies of her "Revolution" album. Most of what Nashville calls country music these days i don't ever listen to but Miranda is one of the few that i still look forward to seeing and hearing and one of the few i will continue to support by purchasing her records.

The only downside to her popularity (and this is not meant in any way as negative commentary towards Miranda as all big name artists have been, will and are being handled this way) is that her image is closely guarded by her publicists. Front Page Publicity has a contract to sign if you are a professional photographer, this is nothing new, i knew i would be sent a copy to sign before the show, or given one when i arrived as i had to sign one last year. These contracts are nothing new but over the last few years they have become increasingly strict and have infringed on the rights of the photographer with some contracts going so far as to state that said photographer must give up the copyrights to all photos taken and that the artist may reproduce those photos by any means, anywhere with out credit or compensation given to the photographer. The only way these contracts will go away is if every photographer that is presented a restrictive contract simply refuses to sign it. Now that being said, i did sign this one, why? Because i was being employed by the venue to photograph the show strictly for them so they may post the photos on their website. I had no interest in trying to profit from the photos or send them to any publication. Plus by signing that contract i am not allowed to post the photos anywhere, not here, not even for use in my own personal portfolio. So if i wasn't hired to photograph this show by the venue, i would not have had any reason to even attend the show except that i happen to love Miranda's music. Now some may say but if you don't attend then you miss the chance that you may get a shot that might be worthy of seeking approval from Front Page Publicity, true under some circumstances but not this one, not with this contract. As a photographer i was restricted to shooting photos only during the first two songs (the standard is three) and only from FOH, front of house, which means from the sound board behind the crowd. From that location you are pretty much guaranteed to get shots at one angle, many times with the microphone right in front of the singers face leaving every shot looking two dimensional and flat. So here is where things stop making sense, why are professional photographers, hired to do a specific job faced with so many restrictions? Miranda's contract is actually not that bad, take Beyonce for instance, her contract only allows photographers to shoot the first 60 to 90 seconds of a show from one angle. Katy Perry's tour is not allowing any photos but the company that bid on or won the rights to do so will be the only ones allowed during the entire tour. I can go on and on, years ago no one was allowed to bring a camera into a concert unless you were a pre approved professional, now it is the opposite, anyone that is not a professional may bring in a point & shoot camera or phone that not only is capable of taking a half way decent photo but they also shoot video, some even shoot high definition video that can be edited in the phone and posted on the web before the next song starts. So why bother with restricting a professional who as a professional should be concerned about what images he or she allows the public to see? Most photographers worth anything, edit their photos meticulously and are very careful not to post an unflattering shot. Whereas most people with a point & shoot camera in the audience could care less, what ever happened to going to a show and enjoying the music you paid to see? Now a days it seems that people go to these shows to be seen themselves instead of going to seriously listen to live music. One interesting point i found on a legendary photographers blog brought up a great point. Most of the photographers with credentials such as his are keeping busy these days providing manufacturers of retrospective CD and LP box sets and galleries with prints from their vast archives they built up over the years when a photographer was allowed to shoot an entire show. They were able to capture those moments at the peak of energy in an artists performance, those moments never happen during the first three songs. Which brings up another valid point, right now photographers that were able to photograph those iconic moments forty years ago, 20 years ago, maybe even five years ago are providing the public with photos on these box sets, t-shirts and merchandise and their work is on display in various galleries. Twenty five years from now when a label or publicists needs photos from a show that happened yesterday, what will they have to work with? Either a photo taken by a professional that did the best he or she could, which is two dimensional and flat or they will have to pull a photo off some ones Facebook page that may or may not even be in focus, let alone flattering. So now i am left wondering, if i had a decent point & shoot camera, could i have put my professional camera away and could i have pushed my way up to the front and taken photos (maybe even with a flash) the rest of the show? That probably would have enabled me to send the venue better shots than what i got them from FOH.

* This photo posted here was taken by me in 2008 with a point & shoot camera, not my best work but Miranda loved it and it's still posted on her website. One other photo i took at that show with that same camera is hanging in Miranda and Blake Shelton's ranch house in Oklahoma.

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