Ad Libris, X-tol

Stopped by the city library to quickly look for a book (Wright Morris's Time Pieces, for the sake of a single reference for an article on PhotoPermit), stepped into the "Friends of the Library" store and walked out with a spotlessly mint copy of the Lustrum/Ralph Gibson SX-70 Art, hard to find and currently listing used on Amazon at $75. Heh. My expense: one crumpled U.S. dollar.

Tonight I'm brewing up a five-liter batch of Xtol for a couple of rolls shot a few nights back while watching Death Cab for Cutie at the Warfield. The exposure was all guesstimated so something with a longer curve than Rodinal is in order.

I have to admit that in general, I'm deeply disinterested in concert photography. Not only does it seem completely inappropriate for the core material — a musical performance — to be locked down into a motionless silent rectangle, but the creative options feel near-nil, you're stuck with the light the designer gives you, the constrained persectives. During the DCFC show there was a fellow lurking just offstage and between the Marshall stacks, snapping and winding his Leica. Looked like he was using a 50mm or 35mm, never closer than ten feet from anyone in the band. No doubt his shots would be technically polished but ultimately impersonal. As I expect mine will be.

They Might Be Giants had some sense — John Linnell kept snapping away himself during their last San Francisco show, grabbing a compact digi between songs. At least he put the camera on stage, among the band, where there's some hope of getting something other than another blue and red blurred tele shot of some sweaty guy with a guitar.

This afternoon I saw a wall full of generic and awkward color concert snaps posted on the wall of a café, along with a sign advertising the shooter's services for hire. I'm sure the phone is ringing off the hook.

November 10, 2004





Comments on "Ad Libris, X-tol"

November 11, 2004 11:26 PM

Concert photography seems to be one of those "phases" most young (and not so young) emerging photographers go through...because they love music and live performances so much, hey, why not cap the experience by photographing it.

Though some get the concert stuff out of their system quickly, it's a death spiral I see too many local photographers fail to get out of. Clearly it's not the (non-existent) pay driving their passion for pursuing so many trite and lifeless shots (and yes, I have my own stash of bad images in this genre).

I do think it's a good exercise to try and photograph at concerts, if only to understand the futility of doing justice to the experience, but also from a purely technical standpoint, learning to work around the limitations imposed by lighting, performance space, performance style, etc. But the actual images end up meaning little beyond their sentimental value to the band, the photographer, and rabid fans.

Some musicians have such visual presence that they manage to give life to images beyond the core faithful, but the majority don't register. My advice to most photographers building websites is to junk the concert shots, which are like a billboard screaming "AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER", but it's tough.


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