Dear All Concert Photographers,

Hi! My name is Clayton Purdom, a Chicago-based writer and semi-regular attendee of live musical performances. I see and interact with a lot of your kind, and had a couple of observations I wanted to share with you, quickly, that may help you go about your job:

1) Assume that everyone hates you. This is because they do. You know how in a crowd there’s that guy that shoves his way in front of you and then stops, and everyone that has been standing there hates that person for ruining their viewing experience? That is you, all the time! I know that you sort of sneak around, leading the way with your telephoto lens and trying to be inauspicious, but in the end you are just a person who has fucked up my situation. I know that that spot gives you a nice sight-line, and I know that because it used to be my sight-line. Now I’m looking at some bro’s neckhair. This is why everyone hates you. However:

2) You are more annoying than a regular person stealing my position, because a regular person does not come equipped with fucking flashbulbs. You draw attention to yourself. Also, I know that the whole photojournalistic ideal is that you take a million pictures and one of them ends up being art, but this is totally precious and totally bullshit. All of those pictures look the same. That one where the singer is singing, and the guy is playing guitar? That’ll suffice. Which leads me to this point:

3) What you are doing is stupid. You know what most indie rock bands look like when they’re fucking killing it? Every other indie rock band. And you know what they look like during a boring set? About the same as when they’re killing it. I know that these shots are going to be tits on your blog and all, but the next night this band is going somewhere else, and there will be another shithead taking pictures of them there. Their photos will look identical to your photos. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but yours is worth exactly as many as are in the band’s name, and besides, even if you were like an SEO ninja your shit still wouldn’t come up if I Google-image-searched the band name. If you’re attempting to capture something about the band in an image, contact their PR reps and arrange an actual session, don’t flood the world with more shitty pictures of them singing or whatever.

4) Audiences deserve to watch a show without you, and the world doesn’t need your stupid photos anyway, but moreover, artists deserve to perform without you. What if while you were doing your real work, like taking photographs of brick walls or pasta dishes or whatever, I walked up to you and started honking an airhorn at you? Just periodically, without any logic to the intervals, honking a goddamn airhorn in your ear while you’re trying to get your photograph on. This is the rough equivalent of expecting musicians to “not mind” you.

Anyway, just a few notes, All Concert Photographers, to keep in mind while you’re fucking up everyone’s good time in the future. Oh, also, your scarf is ridiculous. Whichever scarf you’re wearing.

30people have commented.
1 October 2010

Just saw Mount Kimbie at Drake Underground, and it wasn’t as bad as most indie shows. For one, the crowd was packed so tightly to the front of the stage, no journos could sneak in if they tried. But, there was an annoying person on stage, skulking around behind the back drop, periodically popping off a doozy of a flash.


1 October 2010

Add to this that the photographer will go home and post all two million of their photos on Facebook without the artists’ consent, without thinking, “Maybe this singer doesn’t want this one photo – when they were in the throes of some particular passion that is not conveyed by this photo but actually makes them look stupid with eyes rolling back in their head and jaw slack – on fucking Facebook.” Because musicians, after all, aren’t people.


1 October 2010

This has needed to be said for a long time.

The presence of concert photographers is more forgivable at larger venues and festivals, though remains just as unnecessary. But at the tiny, barely-attended shows I catch every now and then, you – and especially you, sexually-ambiguous Japanese skeleton biker – have no excuse.

The next time you brush me aside while I’m trying to be destroyed by Carey Mercer’s alcoholic spitfire, I will redirect my self-destruction/actualization upon you, and it will be poetic.

Was that cathartic? No, just silly. Fun and well-written column, though. Now back to PUBLIC STRAIN (my only).


you’re not an artist
3 October 2010

LOL, hilarious article. I love how photographers argue so vehemently that their “craft” involves any sort of talent whatsoever. The fact that they even attempt to defend it is just another testament to the fact that they’re expendable push-button mechanics. Club photographers are even funnier. No, those light streaks do not require skill. All you do is use a slower shutter speed and pan the camera around like you have an epileptic seizure, further annoying the shit out of everyone. Anyone can be a photographer. All you need is a couple thousand bucks for a nice SLR and glass. It’s a dying profession.

It’s ok though. We all know at the end of the day these “journalists” who bring their cameras into the clubs are actually failed musicians who simply couldn’t hack it. They do this to bring attention onto themselves in a different way. To hard sell them into thinking their lame blog is the greatest thing out there (sorry, it isn’t, I don’t give a fuck what your google pagerank is either). This attention obviously being negative and is a disgrace to the fans who pay their hard earned money to see a band withREAL talent.


this is dumb
4 October 2010

I’m glad you guys don’t do the whole indie rock photography reel thing on your site like Pitchfork or others. Boring as fuck. “Wow cool, there’s some nerdy white dude strumming a guitar. Can totally feel the moment.”

Corollary: don’t take video of concerts and then put them on youtube. No One Gives a Shit and all it does is allow a kneejerk reaction about the band’s live performances (not just the one you taped, but ALL of them will be judged, apparently, by your one shitty video.)


Kevin Pyle
5 October 2010

HAA HAA….LOVE IT! That was awesome. 🙂


Ken Toney
5 October 2010

For crying out loud, get another beer and get over it.


The Emperor
5 October 2010

I couldn’t disagree more. As a fellow writer, I think I have heard most of your criticisms directed our way as well.

1) Generally, concert photographers that I’ve dealt with are relegated to a photo pit, out of my line of sight and out of my mind. People on the floor are generally not there in a professional setting, and thus, feel free to deny them the spot that you had. If you’re going to be a pussy and let them through, that’s on you, grow a pair.

2) You know that review you wrote praising that band that time? It said the same thing as everyone who liked it.

3) “What you are doing is stupid.” What a dick thing to say. “Hey! Leonardo Da Vinci, why are you painting Mona Lisa, everyone knows what she looks like, that’s fucking stupid!” What we do is stupid. We sit back, observe and give our informed, if not asinine, opinions on matters.

4) “…the world doesn’t need your stupid photos anyway, but moreover, artists deserve to perform without you” Change “photos” to “writing” and it’s a common insult that I have heard. The world doesn’t need Coke Machine Glow or Racket Magazine or Spin or any number of collections of opinions written by people who most believe are failed musicians who know nothing about music.

If you have never written anything about an artist that irritated, offended or pissed them off, you’re doing something wrong.

Eat a bag of dicks,
The Emperor


5 October 2010

Too good. Just so on point.


James Milne
5 October 2010

I agree to an extent but come on

“Anyone can be a photographer. All you need is a couple thousand bucks for a nice SLR and glass. It’s a dying profession.”

It’s hardly a dying profession when advertising companies alone spent around $527 billion last year, not sure specifically how much part of that was just for stills but its a healthy amount.

Moving images may be where the majority of advertising is funded for but we don’t have videos on the sides of buses or inside magazines so its hardly going to kill us.


Jeff Spirer
5 October 2010

Does anyone care what writers say about bands? Why do they come out? Either you were at the show or watch it on youtube, there’s no point in writers being in the crowd at shows.

And FWIW, some of us, including me, always shoot at the request of the band, venue, label, etc.


5 October 2010


Clayton I’ve never read a more retarded article then this.

What about all the stupid “no body’s” with their shit digital camera’s making shit youtube videos. YET a good handful of the crowd from that night will go home and search for that very video and say “OMG I was there it was awesome”.

NVM, Flickr. Where people will search photos from show’s they attended and love every second of peeping photos for great memories of the performance.

Clayton your a fucking idiot.

Like someone else already said, grow some balls and learn to hold your ground in a crowd.


Peter Ellenby
5 October 2010

I’m sure Clayton’s pieces are quoted all over the globe. It’s his prose that music is remembered by….Oh wait a minute. Think of your favorite quote from an article about a band? Can’t think of one can you?
Now think of all your favorite photos of bands. Prob quite a lot of them right?


5 October 2010

Dear Clayton,

Hi! My name is Jason, and I’m a St. Louis based graphic designer, regular live music attendee and professional concert photographer.

I have a couple observations about your article that may help you as a live music attendee, and concert photographer critic.

1. It sounds like you’re interacting with a few inconsiderate photographers; please don’t lump us all together. I personally do my best to be as non-invasive as possible, and if I know I’ll be roaming through the crowd throughout part of the set, I make it clear to the people I’m likely to encounter that I’ll be out of their way in short order. If I know that I’m shooting a tiny club show, I get there early and stake out a spot up front, and get out of the way once I’ve finished shooting. I’ve learned this behavior from interactions with other concert photographers combined with common courtesy, and If the photographers you’re encountering aren’t acting courteously, tap them on the shoulder and ask them.

2. As a photographer, I usually shoot bands and events on assignment for a publication. It’s a career. It’s a responsibility. My shots may or may not look different from the previous nights’ shows, but that’s not always the concern – providing accurate and varied visuals to accompany a written review or similar piece is most important. As a writer, you should be able to sympathize – if you’ve ever done freelance work, that is.

3. What most people do for a job is stupid to someone else. Deal with it, we all do.

4. Contacting a bands’ PR or management team and obtaining permission to shoot a show is a common occurrence. They know we’re there, they approved the photography and press passes. If the artist has time to do a portrait, that’s great – but live shots are, to many people, equally interesting.

5. Shooting restrictions are a way of life for us. Often, we’re restricted to the first three songs of a set, no flash photography allowed. Plus, live music photography is some of the most technically challenging photography there is – uncontrollable and often incredibly dim lighting, fast moving subjects, and – you guessed it – occasionally rowdy crowds and tight venues.

6. For the record, plenty of my live music shots have gained traction from Google Images.

7. Photography isn’t a dying profession – it’s content creation. Just like writing.

8. Most concert photographers get into the profession due to a love of live music, and a desire to share something they love with more people.

Am I saying photographers aren’t annoying at times? Nope. I know we can be, I’m a live music addict. But I know they’re doing their job, and I respect that. Some douche that stands in front of me for no reason? Less forgivable. A chain of people pushing towards the front of the floor, going to meet up with their “friend, who’s right up there!” gets me riled up more than some photographer that hasn’t learned how to be courteous.



Jeff Spirer
5 October 2010

Peter has a great point, does anyone think an article about Blondie can compare with this:

I doubt it.

And Peter, I keep expecting to run into you at BOTH, so far I haven’t.


Bryan J. Sutter
5 October 2010

I’m going to reiterate that you probably have “music photog” and “retarded college student (or hipster, for that matter)” confused.


5 October 2010

I was going to type lots like Jason has. However not matter how much I type, I would still think of you as a twat. So this is all I shall say on the matter.

You are a twat!


5 October 2010

#1. Credentialed concert fotags do not use any flash when doing their job. Almost every band I have ever shot live in concert demands no flash photography, and credentialed concert fotags don’t use any flash equipment during a performance.

#2 Credentialed concert fotags shot between the stage and the crowd, typically for only the first three songs. Any credentialed fotag knows that it’s a great place to shoot the band from and it’s typically the role of the band’s publicist or manager to restrict any further access by credentialed fotags other than the first three songs.

#3 People buy magazines, t-shirts, cd’s and just about every other form of merchandising and merchandisers uses concert photography as one source of imagery for their products. \

#4 Concert photography is a means to documenting a band’s emergence, continuance and end. It’s the only source for fans, publicists, managers and the like to get actual representations of their artists at “work”.

What it sounds like to me is you’re a hipster. A hipster that tries to hard and is jealous of concert fotags because they get to do something that you want to do or have been denied access to do in the past when at shows.

Why not lash out (senselessly as you did here) at the throngs of people who think they are concert photographers, people who sneak in cameras and disobey/break copyright rules and regulations.

Or the guy w/ the hairy neck you seem to be obsesses with at shows that stand in front of you all during the show with his hairy arm up in the air recording the band’s performance to illegally download and put on YouTube.

It sounds like you are hipster, a hipster that tries to hard. All hipsters try to hard Here’s what I suggest. Go see as many live shows as possible, live music is one of the best things on earth to experience, but try not to hate the photographers capturing the performance for their client/magazine/etc, they are simply doing their job.

Get upset when the throngs of concert goers hold up their arms and block your view and diminish your overall experience at shows. Unfortunately a lot of indi bands play smaller venues and people get packed in like sardines so you might wanna tread lightly when lashing out at someone mucking up your oh so pefect view of the band.

My best advice, lighten up. Life is way to short to be bitching about concert fotags who are only doing their job and trying to do it well. Enjoy the show, bring a friend to a band’s performance that normally wouldn’t listen to the music they play and DON’T illegally download the music of the band you are seeing live or from any band in general. Cause we all know that stealing the art of a musician is the biggest douchebag move of all! Even more douchebaggy than lashing out at concert photographers.


5 October 2010

Anyone here who used the word “twat”, “retarded” or “idiot” in their defense of amateur concert photography, please link to a blog that contains more than a series of over-exposed, slanted pictures of white people with guitars right now. Then, explain why the pictures thereon are good, or why the people visiting that blog are entitled to see those photos more than the people who paid to attend the show are entitled to not have the show ruined by a person shoving an enormous phallus in the immediate space of a performer. Lastly, try to do so without calling me an idiot, retarded, or a twat.


5 October 2010

Conrad: You’re not an idiot, but you’re not necessarily making a great point. There’s a difference between an amateur concert photographer and a professional. The initial post doesn’t make a distinction, but should.

Amateurs aren’t shooting for a publication, likely paid to get in (just like everyone else), and may not be as experienced with expected behavior and common courtesies. Artists may not know or appreciate that they’re there, but largely, it’s the band or venues’ responsibility to impose shooting restrictions.

Professionals are usually shooting on assignment, may or may not have paid to attend the show (many do), and hopefully have learned to get out of the way once they’ve got their shot. We follow shooting restrictions laid out by the bands’ management and venue.

The point being – even amateur photographers generally pay to get in. Why are they LESS worthy of enjoying a show than anyone else? Why shouldn’t they share their work? If the band hasn’t restricted photographic access, a photographer has every right to shoot, whether their photos turn out exceptional or not.


5 October 2010

what a shame, it was all going so well until you commented again, it was funny, it was entertaining and then you threw the rattle out of the buggy.

Concertphotag was right…


Mark Abraham
5 October 2010

“Get upset when the throngs of concert goers hold up their arms and block your view and diminish your overall experience at shows.”

Yeah, Clay: get upset when people are having a good time and stop being such a hipster.


5 October 2010

that guy was my favorite, too, mark.


5 October 2010

I’d actually like to add one more point to no. 3.

I shoot for multiple publications, and any print publication that only runs one photo will almost always push to run a 1/2 to 3/4 shot of the main vocalist or guitarist. So some of your criticism about the genericism of music photography needs to be leveled at the media who rarely run shots that are more creative or interesting, instead running shots that will gain instant recognition.


Jonny Leather
5 October 2010


Please allow me to throw down my gauntlet.

You’ve attacked a passion of mine that I’ve dedicated countless hours to. You wage war on its relevancy and claim that everyone hates me.

You are an arrogant fool. I challenge you to prove your own value to the music industry


your mom
6 October 2010

Dang buddy, you need some Preparation H for that butthurt? You sound like a twelve year old girl at a boy band concert crying that she didn’t get close enough to touch Mikey’s peen.


6 October 2010

Funny, the only flash I ever see is from the fans shooting photos from their point and shoots. But concert photogs are the ones you bitch at? The people who are explicitly not allowed to use flash for almost every gig ever? Yeah, that makes sense buddy. I’ve never seen any of the other photogs here shove their way to the front. Most work around the audience or secure a spot and stay there if there isn’t a photo pit.

And when I want to be up front for photos, I grab a spot and keep it the entire night. Am I not allowed that spot just because I have a camera? I’m there to see the show too— I just happen to be photographing it at the same time. But I guess I’m totally ruining the concert doing that, huh?

Also, most the bands enjoy being photographed and are rather pleased to see the results. Can you say the same for YOURwork?

As for 2 and 3, seriously? Grow up.

Thanks for the hilarious generalisations and butthurt rant, though. I need a good laugh. 🙂

Get the stick out of your ass, stop caring so much about what others do, and enjoy the concert like you should be. YOU are the only one that’s ruining the concert, and you’re only ruining it for yourself.


6 October 2010

hey all, rather than resorting to more homophobia/reductive arguments/melodrama, why don’t you argue against us with your chosen medium?

info here:


6 October 2010

Why don’t they argue against you? Most likely because of theURL for your “contest”: you’re still insulting pro photogs and their defenders by calling them douchebags.

The points you made were, for the most part, various degrees of wrong. As many have pointed out, pros don’t behave the way you describe. The one thing I have to add is that it’s not 1950, so no one uses flashBULBS (a professional writer would do his or her research on terminology).


6 October 2010

THANKS so much for cheering me up , been stuck in bed ill for 18 days and this is the best funny article I have read in years so much so I am going to repost it on my website

I could not agree more with you , there is nothing more annoying than being in a photo pit and some wannabe snapper comes and stands right in front of you with their little point and shoot and ruins your shot very annoying oh and dont get me started on the flash issue so damn annoying when the paying public are stood there leaning over the safety barrier flashing away when we members of the international press who, by the way would never flood any site with substandard images , are not allowed to use them I mean come on where’s the fairness in that ,
The reason I and my fellow snappers photograph these events is to make money it is usually the music magazines that buy them (for a pittance these days ) please do not tell me you have never read a live review . As a youngster (i’m guessing your in your mid 30’s by the way) please dont tell me you were  deprived of putting those classic posters of live bands up on your bedroom walls?
anyway many thanks again for making my week with this fantastically humourously written classic rant , I can see it being studied in colleges for years to come.


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