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Songs of Experience

October 9, 2012

I wonder why people photograph gigs so assiduously. I don’t mean the people whose job it is to photograph them for magazines – those folk you see scurrying around in front of the barrier (be nice to them, they may pass you a setlist or plectrum if that’s your bag) – but those who go to pub gigs with the best part of a grandsworth of digital SLR hanging from their neck.

Maybe it is because the fans are of a certain age where disposable income is reasonable, but the progressive rock gigs I go to seem to be as photographed as a Leicester Square premiere. Fortunately most stick to the “no flash” protocol, but I can’t be the only one who objects to a long lens being waggled about quarter of an inch from my ear. Personal space at a gig is a luxury I don’t expect, but a small amount of airspace round the head is surely not too much to ask.

A fair few people I count as friends photograph gigs, taking hundreds of shots, looking at the gig seemingly in terms of where the next great shot is coming from. Many of them take amazing pictures that could happily grace the pages of any music magazine, indeed some have. And most if not all of those I count as friends are considerate to those around them when they take their pictures. In fact it is the professionals at slightly higher profile gigs without a photo pit that cause problems, as well as those who are holding up their phones so I can only see the singer’s face through their screens like an X_Factor ad-sting.

I don’t object to this hobby – it’s really none of my concern what anyone else spends their money and time on, although I do object slightly when I have to fight for a place at the front, not because lots of other people want to have a great view of the gig, but because I might want to experience rather than record the gig.

And there’s the crux of it. I want to experience a thing that is fundamentally unreproducable – a live event. I very rarely watch live music DVDs, even though for some reason I keep buying them from time to time, because what a recording, a photo set or even a video cannot do is reproduce the experience of live music.

And it is wider even than live music. Perhaps it comes from the same place as not having or wanting to have children, but I have no view to posterity. I want to experience the heck out of, rather than worry about recording, all the best bits of life. It’s bad enough having to go to work for a living withoput making the fun bits feel like work, albeit chosen and more enjoyable work. I cannot see how those people recording every moment as if it can’t have been unless on film or tape (shows my age, these days it’s on SD card) feel that they have experienced it in a real “I was there” sense if they have seen a significant amount of the event through a viewfinder (or modern equivalent).

Perhaps it is not for posterity but for a personal record. Even though I would rather have experiences now rather than store up a cache of once removed material for a future I don’t even know I’ve got. Perhpas I will regret this when all I have are these tangible memories and not only is my memory going, but also my memory is going.


You hear from time to time that the first impetus of many when confronted by a situation isn’t to help/flee but to whip out the camera phone and take a picture of the clamity/peril. How can that impetus be healthy? Are we so much lords of all we survey that we can afford to supress that hard-won evolutionary fight/flight instinct.

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