Ever had the feeling that being busy capturing life’s most beautiful moments one is doing the opposite, namely missing life’s most beautiful moments? Right, a photograph keeps a moment for eternity. Or so my wife always says when snapping every bit of food in a restaurant. Just don’t tag me again! Too late… Obviously camera-shy Kate Bush, grand lady of eclectic, poetic rock, has similar issues with all-too-present photography. For the first time in 35 years she’s back on a major live stage, asking fans beforehand: “It would mean a great deal to me if you would please refrain from taking photos or filming during the shows. I very much want to have contact with you as an audience, not with iPhones, iPads or cameras.”
“I know,” she continues, “it’s a lot to ask, but it would allow us to all share in the experience together.” Together. Saying modern-day photography disrupts the experience and separates people because they’re “not sharing together.” That’s why she has “purposefully chosen an intimate theater setting rather than a large venue or stadium.”
Refraining from iPhonemania is what most artists prefer the audience to do, not only for copyright reasons. Live gigs are about the only way left for singers, bands and musicians to make money in this day and age of piracy. Just imagine the possibilities if photographers could give live shows… Seriously, true artists perform for the soul and passion of it. Not for tiny LCD screens.
With her message to fans Bush joins a number of musicians who have either politely requested or demanded that fans refrain from viewing their performance through a tiny screen, inevitably disturbing the experience of others nearby (or at least of the few weirdos left who don’t hold an iPhone above their heads…).
Just imagine, some people have to be told explicitly to not take pictures or videos while holding up their camera phones that block other people’s view or otherwise hinder other fans concert experiences. Or its plain artist vanity, requesting to putting down cameras and phones to prevent the spread of unflattering pictures or inferior video recordings on social media.
Or take ring tones during live performances. Mozart and Haydn killed by cell phone. Search in on YouTube. Lots of videos. Cameras as a nuisance. It’s not only highly disrespectful towards the artist, it also shows there is little respect left among many people for the efforts behind creativity and art.
Prince introduced a “no photography, no video recording” rule at his gigs. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs posted a blunt message on a sign outside venues: “PUT THAT SHIT AWAY as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian.”
The London post-punk band Savages offer a philosophical justification: “We believe that the use of phones to film and take pictures during a gig prevents all of us from totally immersing ourselves. Let’s make this evening special. Silence your phones.”
Roger Daltrey, The Who singer, said it was “weird” to face an audience watching through a lens: “I really feel sorry for them. Looking at life through a screen and not being in the moment totally — if you’re doing that, you’re 50% there, right?”
The requests are often ignored. There are a few artists who have threatened to halt a show as a result of flashing camera lights, smartphones above heads and video recording. Neko Case is one of them. “Just put away the cameras. It isn’t going to kill you, but it might kill me,” she told an audience during a moment of frustration.”
Click here for Kate Bush’s new album 50 Words for Snow.