A Few Words on My Recent Frustrations of Being a Female Music Photographer

Can you imagine thinking you’re going to photograph your all time favourite band. The band you have loved and idolised since you were nine years old. Only to find out your photo pass, along with all of the other photo and press passes, were cancelled just hours before the show. Can you imagine the feeling of utter despair and disappointment, after hyping yourself up for almost a month, that you won’t be attending the gig, never mind photographing it?  

After a recent incident regarding Josh Homme, the frontman of Queens of the Stone Age who kicked photographer Chelsea Lauren at a gig in LA, I have pushed myself to write this post. As a female photographer who shoots in the pit at a lot of gigs I can relate to and sympathise with the victim. I feel that although Homme has been defended by a lot of fans, after seeing the video, this was most likely an intentional act of disrespect towards Chelsea, and perhaps photographers in general. Intentional or not, the facts (and video proof!) are there. Josh Homme kicked a female photographer in the face at one of his shows. 

Although he posted an apology afterwards on social media aimed directly at Chelsea Lauren, I’m still not sure whether he is sorry about it, or whether he is just worried about his reputation? We will never know.  

Although I will always stick up for photographers, especially females in the industry, I am viewing this from an outsider’s approach. I wouldn’t really say I was a fan of QOTSA, however on the other hand it’s not that I don’t like them either, so I am completely unbiased. What I do know for sure is that this will personally put off a lot of photographers, particularly female, from working with the band and Josh Homme in the future. It’s an utter disgrace to the music industry and there are no excuses for acting that way. The whole story has probably been put to bed now that Chelsea Lauren appears to have accepted the apology and it’s looking like she isn’t going to press charges. However, I still have a lot of personal concerns! How are women meant to feel safe in photo pits? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to shoot a gig and get a big Josh Homme foot in my face just for doing my job. I just hope the reason she isn’t pressing charges isn’t because she feels ashamed to do so. Girl power and all that.

Even more recently Brandon Flowers of The Killers came out to say that photographers should be respected and more importantly that they are welcome at their shows. At a recent gig he called tour photographer Rob Loud up to the stage and publicly thanked him for his work, also stating that he “wasn’t going to kick him”. I laughed at this at first, however when reading peoples comments towards this, I realised how much I felt frustrated at Flowers’ comments. 

Now, The Killers are said band. The band who cancelled my photo pass, but they are also the band I have idolised since I was so young. I feel embarrassed that I didn’t know the apparently ‘well known fact’ that The Killers are notorious for not allowing photographers to photograph them at their shows. Who’d have known? According to some sources it has been this way ever since 2006! It seems like something I just should have known, with me growing up adoring them, and being a photographer and all. Even though I personally think this is a massive mistake from the band, I still can’t help but blame myself for not knowing. I respect The Killers so much and I guess respecting their views and rules for live shows, especially as a photographer, just has to be ‘one of them things’. 

In light of my frustration I went against my morals and bought a ticket off a tout for the show I was meant to photograph. I just couldn’t not go. I managed to take my Compact System Camera into the arena and shot some images from the crowd. I kept thinking to myself ‘if other people can do it then why can’t I?’ I shouldn’t be made to feel bad about taking a semi-professional camera into an arena, after all nobody stopped me in doing so. I’ve seen articles about photographers who have snuck DSLRs into shows and ended up getting some of the best shots they’ve ever taken, but in return received a lot of backlash from other photographers for being immoral. At no point did I feel I was being immoral or disrespectful to the band, after all the band themselves say that the best shots are taken from the crowd! It is the feeling of knowing that you’re not meant to be doing something that gives you a sense of mischief and excitement, but I also felt bad about this. I didn’t touch the images for weeks, I felt embarrassed and didn’t want to cause myself further upset in case my images caused a backlash. But here I am publicly posting my shots from the gig because Brandon Flowers told me to.

The Killers Manchester Arena 14th November 2017

The Killers Manchester Arena 14th November 2017

The Killers Manchester Arena 14th November 2017

The Killers Manchester Arena 14th November 2017

The Killers Manchester Arena November 2017

I’m not sure what all of this means for women in the music industry and photography, probably nothing, but it sure as hell isn’t gonna stop us. My recent disappointments have only pushed me further, I just hope this and similar news doesn’t discourage anybody from doing the things they love. I felt bad for a while, but now I’m over it. 

Go and pursue your dreams!

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