If you’ve ever been to a concert, stood close enough to see sweat beading on the artist’s brow, and thought, “OMG! I’m close enough for them to SWEAT ON ME!” then we’ve unofficially met. I’m that anonymous nobody behind the barricade you’re pressed up against. That buffer zone between you and the stage is called the photo pit, and the photo pit is my warzone.
Being a concert photographer is pretty great, but it’s not all fun and games. I’m there to work. We all have plenty of things to worry about at fests like these, but while your ultimate goal is to relax and enjoy the show, my goal is mostly to get print-worthy images in less-than-ideal conditions. The lighting changes, the subject moves around, and most venues/artists allow photographers in the pit for but three songs. And on top of all that, I have to share that narrow trench with other photographers. At Sasquatch! Music Festival 2014 over Memorial Day weekend, up to 40 others were in there with me at times. Most of us practice common courtesy, but you do get the occasional asshole who practices guerilla warfare (has camera on a stick/uses a flash/stands in front of you/etc.).
Beyond the shenanigans, we all have tricks to get good shots. Mine is to a show up early and wait to enter the pit. But being first-in has disadvantages; crazy shit happens in there. Ask any concert photographer for war stories, and if they’ve done it long enough, they’ll tell you some good ones. My latest war story is from Sasquatch 2014, and it goes like this:
Die Antwoord were performing Friday. I was so pumped I showed up nearly an hour early. I knew their show would be insane, and I wanted a front-row seat. When they let us in to the pit, I stood right against a bank of amps, as close to the stage as I could. When Ninja and Yolandi came on the stage, the lighting started to flash, the crowd went batshit, and then it happened: Ninja walked out onto the amps in front of me and I got the perfect shot (the one of Ninja grabbing his junk, right in front of my face) — victory! Then, he leaned forward and bent over me. What was he doing? I kept my lens pointed straight up, only inches away from his face, and then… He spit on my lens.
So, remember next time you see concert photographers, be nice to us.
Tyler, The Creator
Band of Skulls
Crowd, pt. 1
Black Joe Lewis