I’m a keen photographer, and in recent months have found myself snapping more live public events, including theatre and dance, sometimes for work, sometimes just for myself. I inevitably feel a little self-conscious doing this, and always aim to be as discreet as possible – being polite to the audience and performers, avoiding flash, and keeping to the back or perimeter (not always easy – I’m a short-arse). Perhaps I’m too hesitant at times, but when I do need to get in close I keep it short, get my pictures, and get out of the way. In many instances people have paid to see these shows, so I have no right to diminish or distract from their view, even if I do have a laminate.
So I was less than impressed when I attended the unveiling of a new Blue Plaque in Morley which celebrates Beryl Burton, a highly accomplished cyclist who lived much of her life there. A lot of local people were in attendance, including families with small children and older people, who all made a space for themselves (and each other) in a limited area and patiently waited for actress Maxine Peake to arrive for the grand unveiling. Naturally there were some big cameras and lenses there, stills and video, including some local press and others (like me) just capturing the event for themselves and posterity. So I was rather peeved when five different men with the biggest equipment (yes, I do get lens-envy) pounced and parked themselves in front of the crowd the second Maxine Peake appeared – a case of a few obstructing the view of many. Had they got in, got their pictures, and then either got out or simply crouched (a low angle wouldn’t go amiss, boys) it would’ve been ok. But they stayed for the duration. I’d positioned myself against a wall and grabbed a few snaps over their heads, but the lovely, chatty elderly lady on my right and little girl to my left couldn’t see a bloody thing. And one of those blokes committed a fashion crime to boot, sporting a backwards baseball cap.
Sometimes audience members are just as discourteous. I’m getting increasingly pissed off with people whipping out their iPads and holding them up at events. We do not attend live events to witness them through your big fuck off screens, thank you very much, put them down! Mobile phones are irritating enough, but holding up an iPad for the duration of a concert, even though you’ve already been asked to stop filming, is downright selfish. These people have no shame and no manners. If I wasn’t such a bad shot I’d carry a sling-shot and go on a screen-cracking spree.
Going to see Prince was an interesting one. We all know he’s a musical genius, but simultaneously a bit daft, but when the venue and the band issued several requests that people simply enjoy the moment rather than experience it through their phones, most people respected this. And if I had tried to snap a quick phone pic he would’ve just been a distant dot with an afro and it would’ve looked shit, so I was happy to oblige. Other people in the crowd were not, and the repeated occurrence of mobile phone and – yes – fucking iPad screens, was distracting and irritating. I even saw one guy with a DSLR. Knob. The security staff really laid in to one persistent offender and, frankly, she deserved it, but – having paid a shit load of money for that ticket – I did not appreciate the hoo-ha she caused by repeatedly getting her phone out. I was there to see Prince and 3rdEyeGirl, not a kerfuffle.
Can we all learn a little common courtesy, is it really that hard? Are we really so doggedly determined to document everything, regardless of how crap it looks, that we’ll selfishly ruin someone else’s experience just so we can get a few hits on YouTube and Instagram? And when you next go to a gig, how about not standing in front of the short girl to ruin the spot she’s just found?
Next time I see someone with an iPad* at a public event I’m going to will them to drop it. And I hope it breaks.
(*other equally intrusive devices are available)