Jim Morrison, Robert Johnson, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and now Amy Winehouse: The list of rockers who departed this world at the age of 27 is long — and eerie. Hear NPR’s All Things Considered report on “The 27s” in 2009.
It should be noted I write these having at one time or another been guilty of most of them. The following is a mea culpa. If I had kids, who took photos, this is what I would tell them. I’m just sowing seeds here.
1. Thou shalt always be polite.
You are there to provide a service to someone - the organiser, the artist, a publication, etc etc. You’re stood in front of people who have paid to be there, and amongst other people working for a job. So play nice and be nice.
2. Thou shalt remain invisible at all times.
People didn’t pay to see you. You didn’t pay to be there. So stay out of the way. This should mean:
- Staying in the shadows
- never, EVER crossing the stage
- keeping low in the pit
- staying out of the audience’s eyeline
- obeying rule 6
3. Awareness is next to Godliness
The pit can contain: You, security, family, friends, other press, other artists, venue management, bottles of piss, vomit, cans, glass, assorted liquids and mud. Awareness of these things in relation to you at all times is vital for a) your safety (and your gear) and b) the comfort and safety of those around you.
Don’t leave gear lying around - it’s a high traffic area, and you’re focused on the act. Be aware that bodies come flying over the barrier, and security need to do their job - this can and will mean you getting trodden on if you get in the way. Everyone is trying to do their job, so EYES OPEN. Broken glass, bodily fluids and other humans should all be avoided with equal gusto.
4. Stick and move, stick and move
Never stand in front of someone lining up a shot. They got there first, and will move soon. Refer to rule 1.
By contrast, don’t be a spot hog. If you’ve been there a minute or more, expect someone to ask you to move. Generally, you have limited time to get shots.
5. Get in, get done, get out.
Hey, E-Zine writer! you’ve got a blog? Neat! got a photo pass? AMAZING. That means you get a front row seat to lord it over the proles, stand at the lip of the stage with your drink on it, tapping in time with the drummer through the WHOLE SET while staring at the singer so that he notices YOU the most, right? right?
wrong. Be a fan - use your song knowledge to anticipate the moments that will provide good photos, get them, then get out of the way. Edge of the pit, or back to the crowd. Nothing pisses everyone off more than someone with a sniff of an opportunity abusing it.
6. Dress code
Low slung skinny jeans, wayfairers and a hat may look super cool,* and make people think that you, too are part of the band, and awesome**.
But: you can’t then move quick enough to get the moment you need, can’t see to white balance the camera, and lose your hat when you use your viewfinder.
protect your knees, wear dark colours (see rule 2) and dress so you can move.
* Pro tip: they don’t.
** Pro tip: they don’t, they think you’re a hanger-on douche.
7. No one cares about your vintage camera
Hey there, art school! you’ve got an old film camera. Maybe a lomo. Maybe one that requires timed exposure to get that vintage look that the hipster kids love.
It has no place in a photo pit. Hate to break it to you, but you’re taking valuable time and wasting film. You can get that look with filters in Lightroom, or hell, use an iPhone app for instant point-and-shoot vintage. Old cameras tend to be used by hipster posers, who get in the way and have no clue on manners.
8. If you use flash, I will punch you in the throat.
A) all flash pictures look the same, and it washes out the colour that the stage manager has carefully (or not) decided to use.
B) it distracts the artist, and is irritating to the fans. It’s perfectly possible to get great pictures using available lighting. You just need a fast lens (2.8 or lower) and a fast trigger finger. Better camera models of course help, but flash is lazy, and shouldn’t ever be used at gigs. EVER.
This beautiful cover of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra’s Summer Wine is by the Italian band Staggerman with able support from Lalla. It’s taken from a wonderful compilation - two CDs worth of alt-country outlaw covers. Some excellent music, all downloadable for free.