Musings on Photography at Concerts

I have attended many events where the venue bars cameras. Typically this means “good” cameras, often but not always defined as cameras with interchangeable lenses. Most recently I saw Jesse Cook at the Kalamazoo State Theatre—it was a great show by fabulously talented musicians—and I watched as countless cell phones were used to take photos and to record audio and video. I had smuggled in my “good” camera, an Olympus OM-D E-M10, with a 45mm f/1.8 lens – a fast and somewhat short telephoto lens. Patrons were searched as the entered the venue; we had to have our coats open and security patted us down – probably checking for alcohol or weapons. My camera, in the pocket of the coat and thus held away from me as I opened the coat for inspection, was undetected.

Jesse Cook at the Kalamazoo State Theatre

My seat at the front of the Mezzanine (lower balcony) gave me a great view of the stage, and after the first song I got my camera out and took a few photos, being sure to hold this threatening object in my lap when not in use so that the watchful eyes of the security guards wouldn’t see it.  At a prior concert at this venue I had seen security approach people with “good” cameras and ask them to put them away under threat of expulsion (of course while cell phones were in use all around them); at that concert I had used a longer lens and got some great shots.  

So, should cameras be allowed or not? My view, not surprisingly, is that if photography is permitted, then the venue should not care what equipment is used, within limits. Equipment that could interfere with the enjoyment of the event by those around you should of course not be used – no flash, no tripods that might impede safe egress, no long lenses poking over the shoulder of the patron in the seat in front of you.  Once photography is allowed and phones are recording photos and video, cameras should not be banned.

Upon arriving home, I reviewed my shots and posted a few good ones to a Facebook album. By the next morning, the Kalamazoo State Theatre had “liked” my album. Here’s the reply that I posted to them:

Great show – glad you brought Jesse Cook and his other talented musicians to town! And I’m glad that you liked the photo album that I shared. I wish I hadn’t had to smuggle in my camera to take a few photos, especially considering that photos were allowed and there were many phones recording not only still photos but audio and video as well. Guess I need to add a phone app to my camera, then there would be no issue 🙂. Wish you would reconsider your camera policy.

No reply from them yet – I’ll post it here if they respond.

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