For most people growing up and going to gigs the same thing happens on the path to seeing the band you love live in concert. There is the anticipation of a live tour, the stress of buying tickets for the show and the cost, usually exorbitant these days, and then, finally, the concert itself and the hope that they band will be as good live as you hoped. For many there is also the queuing for hours before the venue opens so as to get a good position on the barrier at an all standing gig just to be that little bit closer to the band and to feel the noise and heat from the stage.
It’s whilst waiting at that barrier, in the 5 minutes before the band come on stage, that the official photographers can be seen making their way into the pit space between the stage and the crowd. For the next 10 minutes the place is busy with photographers darting around, each trying to get their photographs in the short time allowed before being escorted back out of the pit. For some fans it is an annoyance to have people in the pit, even if it is only for a few minutes, as they believe they are spoiling their view of the band, not realising that without the photographers there would be no photographs or reviews of the event to be viewed in magazines, newspapers or online which are often treasured for years by those very same fans.
For some fans the photographers are of interest to them as they want to be part of that scene, those few precious minutes in the pit taking photos of their idols. These are the fans that usually end up chatting with the photographers before the band comes on the stage and are usually the nicest of people.
For those fans who want to be part of the music photographer scene it’s important to understand that whilst it is an incredibly rewarding experience for the most part, it is not always as fun as you think it is going to be.
I feel the most important thing for people to understand is that music photographers don’t always have the best experience on the evening, often not finding out if they have been given a media pass to photograph the event until a few hours before the show. Then comes the waiting game when you reach the venue, often being held in dark corridors just outside the venue for that precious 10 minutes of being able to take photographs. Quite often as soon as your time in the pit is over, and its usually the first 3 songs or less, you are escorted back out the arena and not allowed back in to watch the rest of the show as you don’t have a ticket. Sometimes luck is on your side and you will have been given a ticket with the photo pass but that’s usually reserved for those who then have to review the bands performance as well as take photographs and you can’t begin to review until you have found somewhere secure to store your expensive camera equipment and then made your way back to the main venue. By the time you get back in, half the show has gone.
The pit is not always glamorous, or the best view of a band during a show. Often it is not a great experience as you have to cope with high stages which don’t make for great photographs, trailing cables everywhere on the floor which are a trip hazard and, naturally, security who are doing their job of keeping the fans safe. It won’t be the first time a photo pit has become a complete nightmare due to fans being pulled over the barrier into the pit for their own safety at a rock gig or bottles and glasses full of some kind of liquid being thrown from the back of the venue to the front, usually miraculously hitting a photographer on the back of the head just as they are taking the shot.
The best example would be a gig by KISS in Glasgow, Scotland where there was very little room to accommodate the 11 photographers and equipment in the pit. With security tight, explosive charges being detonated all around during the show and members of the public who had paid thousands being led into the pit as well so they could stand in a small penned off area to be closer than anyone else – you can imagine how crowded the area was.
Photographers were only allowed to stand at the side of the pit until the curtain dropped and the first barrage of explosions went off before being rushed to the small space allocated for 1 and a half songs before being escorted straight back out of the building.
The photograph above is the view just as the show started and the curtain dropped – not the best photos but they at least document what the view was like for the photographers in the pit and as to how life as a music photographer really is not as glamorous as you may think.