why you don’t want to go to a festival with a photographer

riotfest chicago friday

Music festivals are awesome. But as music festival season comes upon us, I have realized: if you like music, you probably don’t want to go to a music festival with a working photographer, because going to a music festival with a working photographer is no fun.

There’s some festivals that are exceptions — like Hopscotch, with the nature of its scattered clubs and only having the City Plaza shows be credentials only / pit line up / first three no flash etc, that’s an okay festival to go to with a working photographer. You just wander into the the clubs with them. You split up when you want to see different bands. You lose each other at a day party and then find each other eating cheese fries at the Times. It’s a good festival to go to with working press.

But big outdoor festivals like RiotFest, or this year’s Shaky Knees in ATL and Boston Calling in Boston? I can’t imagine that they’d be a lot of fun for one person to tag along after a photog at.

Because being a photographer at a festival is this: it’s standing in lines, or it’s standing in pits dodging elbows, crowd surfers, and flung beers to get your shots. If you’re lucky, there’s not eight inches of mud — no exaggeration — sucking you down like the overfull Against Me! pit at RF last year. You finish shooting one band, and you immediately go and stand in line for whoever you’re getting ready to shoot next, and you probably have to fight through a nasty crowd to do that. Somebody tagging along with a photographer is either on their own, unless they enjoy standing in lines for nothing just to be with their photographer, or they’re, say, stuck standing in line for beers because their photographer can’t leave the pit line because that bitch four spots back is going to try and skank that spot if anybody so much as twitches off the fence. And she wants both a beer and her spot, damn it.

(This is totally false generalization in some cases; the City Plaza pit lines are, for the most part, genial, and generally filled with people holding spots and fetching beers for each other, because Hopscotch press is still a pretty local deal, so most of us know each other. The RiotFest pit lines were mostly nice, though some were fucking brutal — what did I expect from a festival Fall Out Boy pit in Chicago? I’m an idiot who expected more politeness — and on Sunday when everybody was soaked and muddy to the knees and exhausted, there was definitely a lot of can you hold this bag over my camera while I change lenses? camaraderie. But often I’ve found that photographers can be really fucking bitchy – I’m not stealing your shot, assholes, stop being jerks when I visit your town. That’s why you’re so awesome, ATL photogs from Panic!. You were all excellent humans.)

I like to work festivals because it means I get to go to festivals for free, and then I get to take photos of bands that I love, and those things are good: free music, good work, happy photographer. I want to go to those festivals with people I like because sometimes you do have an hour’s downtime, and you want to sit on the grass and watch Bad Religion with somebody you love.

FYI if you are not willing to sit on the grass and watch Bad Religion with me, we can’t be friends anymore. I’m sorry. (The above shot is Pam, sitting on the ground watching Bad Religion with me.)

I’m planning some out of town spring festival stuff, starting to send out cred requests for press coverage and so on, and some of those trips may involve The Nice Gentleman With Whom I Am Romantically Involved (he needs a better blog nickname, and since he reads this, he is welcome to submit his own contenders), and I realized while I was doing it — it’s not fun to go to a festival with me while I’m working. I mean, pretty likely not for most people. Maybe for someone who loves me as The Nice Gentleman does, it would be okay to hang out in photographer’s lines and see sets on his own, because he loves me and he respects my work. (He did sit in a bar reading while Panic! at the Disco broke the Tab when my second press ticket fell through, which is love in and of itself: being willing to go see Panic! at the Disco, and then being willing to kill time while I worked when my tickets fell through.) But maybe not, because that’s not always fun, and I don’t like to put people I love through things what are not fun — and I want him to go to those festivals with me, and I want to work them, and being a working photographer, I’m gonna have to find a good middle ground somewhere. I just don’t know where it is yet.

That’s what love and photo pits do to you, I guess.

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