Shot in the Dark: Angels & A-Holes

Glenn Danzig at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011, Auditorium Shores, Austin
Glenn Danzig at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011, Auditorium Shores, Austin
Photo by Marc Brubaker

When you're in the photo pit taking pictures for a publication such as Rocks Off, you can become the unwanted center of attention from both the audience and especially the artists. Most of the time you are only a few feet away from the performer, and often in their direct line of sight. They can and will notice, which leads to both good and bad things happening. The few times Rocks Off has been personally forced to cross the barricade and shoot a show ourselves, we have certainly wanted to disappear.

With our second Shot in the Dark coming up tomorrow night -- you can find out all the information you need at this link, and we hope you RSVP to join us -- It got us to thinking about some of the times the photographers whose works you'll see in the show caught the artists' eye. We got the idea for this blog from someone in the show whose subject was determined to heap as much humiliation his or her way as they could. Others' experiences have been much cooler.

Marc Brubaker: I've had numerous pleasant experiences talking with artists at smaller clubs after I've photographed them. People like Tristen, St. Vincent, Jessica Lea Mayfield and recently Justin Townes Earle come to mind, among many others. Unfortunately with the larger acts, you often don't get to converse with the artists. I'd love to get the chance to ask Neko Case why she doesn't allow photography, or talk to some artists about their photo policies.

The only real asshole (no surprise here) has been Danzig, who had henchmen at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2010. There were no photos allowed of Danzig (although I snuck one or two for the blog, shh), so no photo pit. About 15 minutes before the set, guys were sent through the crowd to ensure that there were no cameras, and to tell press that they weren't allowed to take photos.

Then four people stood on the barricade, patrolling the crowd and blocking camera views with their hands. We're talking about people's point and shoot cameras, or even their phones, just trying to get a little snapshot. Four guys, roaming the barricade, waving their hands, telling people, "Put the camera/phone away or we'll throw you out." Pathetic.

At least they weren't back for FFF 2011.

Groovehouse: Ben Folds actually mocked me on the night I shot him at House of Blues. I was the only photographer in the pit and during the break for the second song, he reached on top of his piano for something and came back with a roll of duct tape. He took the tape and put it to his eye, then proceeded to "focus" with it and shoot me back! Ben, the crowd and myself all had a good laugh and I got a great shot.

Method Man at House of Blues
Method Man at House of Blues
Photo by Craig Hlavaty

Craig Hlavaty: The only thing that I can think of in my history of shooting shows that stands out is Method Man and Redman pouring water on us photogs back in the day at a show at House of Blues. You can very much see that the lens on my camera had been moistened.

It was a fun show, and I have no hard feelings toward the stars of the fanatastic cinematic wonder that was How High. It's cool, though, Monotonix broke that camera for me a few months later at Numbers. Ha.


Rhett Miller of Old 97's at House of Blues
Rhett Miller of Old 97's at House of Blues
Photo by Jay Lee

Jay Lee: The most memorable experience I have regarding how a performer responded to me as a photographer was when I was shooting Siouxsie & the Banshees at Cullen Hall in 1986.

I wasn't shooting for anyone, just myself. I had some connections and was introduced to one of the guys on her security team, and I asked if I could shoot some photos of the concert. He told me it was cool to shoot the first three songs, but any more than that and Siouxsie might not be so happy about it. This was the first time I encountered the "three song" rule.

Well, I shot the first three songs and it was great. She even posed for the camera for a few dramatic shots.

Right before she started her fourth song, she took the microphone off the mike stand and started swinging it around as if to clear the front stage area. Siouxsie made it very clear that it was time to stop shooting, so I backed off before I took a mike upside the head.

Rusko at Warehouse Live
Rusko at Warehouse Live
Photo by Jody Perry

Jody Perry: All artists have been cool with me. Rusko's people let me on stage to snap when no one was allowed up there. That was sweet! All artists seem to love the camera.


Jay-Z on the Watch the Throne tour, Toyota Center
Jay-Z on the Watch the Throne tour, Toyota Center
Photo by Marco Torres

Marco Torres: Being a concert photographer is not as glamorous as it sounds. We hardly ever get to go backstage or meet the performers. But every now and then, the planets align and cool things happen. Case in point, at the ACL Music Fest last year, Trae Tha Truth introduced me to the one and only Nas.

I was extremely honored to meet one of the greatest rappers of all time. Trae mentioned to him that I shot "classic photos," which prompted Nas to ask me if I had any classic shots from his show(s). So I pulled out my smart phone and showed him a few. He replied, "Those are dope." Then he offered us some of his champagne. Needless to say, it made my day/festival/year.

The Avett Brothers at the former Verizon Wireless Theater
The Avett Brothers at the former Verizon Wireless Theater
Photo by Jason Wolter

Jason Wolter: I haven't had much interaction with artists that I was assigned to shoot, but one of the weirdest experiences had to have been with Lucinda Williams. I was covering iFest a few years ago and the photographers were told by her management that we would be allowed to shoot her set, but we would not have pit access.

This was unexpected but not totally unreasonable; the next stipulation is where it really got weird. We were then informed that if "Lu" saw us with our cameras in the crowd, then we were "gone." Considering that it was an outdoor festival with any number of uncredentialed photographers roaming around, this was a pretty outrageous demand.

That being said, there we all were, taking cover behind the shortest tall person we could find trying to get our shots and not catch the omnipotent eye of Ms. Williams.

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