I was thinking about this all weekend, and then it was underlined at the Arctic Monkeys’ Mercury Lounge show. Lindsayism beat me to the post with her well-articulated manifesto, but I concur — all this taking photographs at shows is getting out of hand. And lately, I’ve been part of the problem.
Remember in elementary school when the cool kid would come into class one morning with some little new toy? I remember specifically this thing called Wacky Wall Crawlers, a sticky rubber octopus that you’d throw against a wall and it would slowly roll its way down, looking like it was alive, crawling. (This may have happened with yo-yos too, but maybe I’m just confusing my memories with The Simpsons.) Instantly, everyone would want one, and by the end of the week nearly everyone did have one. All the kids would be wanting to play with whatever it was all the time, and eventually the principal would say you couldn’t bring them to school anymore, they had become such a distraction.
This is what it’s like going to almost any New York show these days with all the people taking photographs. I got caught up in it too. You see the amazing photographs taken by people like Brooklyn Vegan or Kathryn Yu and you think, "Hey, I’ve got a blog. I’ve got a camera. Why not me?" I actually got a crazy nice camera for Christmas last year with a battery that never seems to die and a shutter that actually takes the photo the second you hit the button, and that has made it a lot more fun to take pictures. Plus, Flickr is such an amazingly cool site, it makes taking them even more fun. So it’s hard to resist doing it. So I brought my big-ass camera to the Art Brut show at Mercury Lounge and had fun taking pictures. But so did EVERYONE else. I felt very self conscious.
But it was the next night at the Art Brut/Test Icicles show at Northsix that I really truly realized this fad — and it is a fad — has gotten completely out of hand. At one point during Test Icicles rather insane set where there were so many flashes going off, it was beginning to freak out bandmember Sam (or is it Rory… whichever one has the hair in his eyes all the time). During a song he actually leaned down and asked one particularly picture-happy dude to cool it with the flash.
Then came the Arctic Monkeys show at Mercury Lounge. There were probably at least 20 people up front with cameras. I had mine with me and took a couple shots but felt dumb holding my big camera over my head and felt like I was blocking somebody’s view. (I am one of the few dudes who seem to worry about this at shows. I am admittedly uptight.) After the second song, singer Alex Turner articulated the whole problem. "There sure are a lot of photographers here," and then went on to basically say that while it’s fun to take pictures and have these photos to prove you were there, but while you’re busy taking photos aren’t you maybe missing the show, being a part of it? I just felt stupid like I’d been called on what I already knew was stupid behavior. I put my camera back in the bag and there it stayed, though, as Lindayism stated, not many did the same. The flashes continued.
But I do think this is a fad. Most will tire of it, and the people who are honestly good at it — like Brooklyn Vegan — will continue to take photos and that’s cool. I’ll con tine to take pictures of everything else, including food — even if bringing my big-ass camera to a restaurant is even more conspicuous than at a rock show.
I’m moving on to pogs. I hear it’s the new thing anyway.
*Knowing me, I will go back on my word and have my camera with me for some show. But it will be with good reason.