Nadia Elkharadly: Confessions of an Amateur Rock Photographer

I’ve been at this part time music journalist gig for more than a year.  In that time frame I decided to take up photography, so that when PR reps tell me in no uncertain terms that I am not getting a plus one at the shows I review, I can at least have my own shots to accompany my articles.

Being a rock music journalist is no easy task.  Think about how hard it is to be in the thick of things, in the mosh pit, surrounded by crazed fans writhing against each other.  In the past 15 months or so I’ve come to learn that there are a few types of people that always seem to make getting a few decent shots at a show that much more difficult, but who make for some funny stories at the very least.

1)      The groupies who think I’m after their Idol

On the opening night of this year’s Indie Week, last year’s winners The Suburbians played at the Hideout.  These boys are young, very good looking, and BRITISH.  Essentially, they’re crack for horny girls in their early twenties looking to hook up with their first musician.  There were four or five such girls in front of the stage that night, all screaming and swooning while the boys in the band did their thing.  I’m definitely not shy when I’m shooting.  I started making my way to the stage to get better pictures.  You would have thought I was offering one of these girls’ boyfriends a handy in the bar bathroom, the way they reacted to my presence between them and their supposed beloveds.  Stares, glowers, whispers to their friends followed by looks of deep disgust and offense, even some pushing and shoving ensued.  I bore it all with good grace and a quiet smile.  Seeing the jealous looks on their faces when lead singer Mark Konstantinovic came over to introduce himself and give me a CD was a sweet reward in its very own way.

2)      The guy who pretends he doesn’t hear or see me

Before I decided to make rock shows more work than play, I had attended a great many as just a fan.  So I’m well aware of how hard it is to push your way to the front of the crowd to not only get that great spot, but to hold onto it.  When you go to more than a show a week however, that coveted spot becomes less and less desirable, unless it’s for an absolute favourite band.  So you can rest assured that if I’m pushing my way past you to get close to the front, I’m not planning on camping out there for more than a song or two, especially if I’ve got my camera in my hand.  From attending a great many shows over the past year, I’ve actually noticed that the majority of people at shows are very accommodating with us hard working photographer types.  Once they see that camera in hand, or spot the media badge organizers like Livenation give us at their events, they give an acknowledging nod and let me pass them without incident.  But there’s always that ONE guy at every show.  I’ll be walking through the crowd, nudging this person or that, politely saying “excuse me” as I get closer and closer to the front.  Then I’ll hit a wall; a human wall that apparently has no sight, hearing, or feeling.  I’ll tap his shoulder, yell in his ear, even wave a hand in front of his face, but to no avail.  It’s like I DON’T EVEN EXIST.  And when a grown man is pretending I don’t exist (and not by simply never calling or texting after a date), I get really annoyed.  This guy usually gets some of his beer “accidentally” spilt on him when I am finally able to shove my way past.

3)      The Moshers

When I’m shooting at a show, I am by no means trying to begrudge anyone their fun.  I love live music, and I’ve been known to jump around and bust a move when a song I love comes on.  I haven’t moshed since I was a teenager but I do remember how fun (if not occasionally painful) it used to be.  I get it; it’s a huge part of a show, especially a big and rowdy one for some people.  At those bigger shows, there’s usually a sectioned off pit where photographers can congregate without interacting with fans, so people can mosh to their heart’s content without endangering people trying to work, or their very expensive camera equipment.  But if there is no such pit, and I’m forced to shoot from the crowd, moshers are not only my worst enemy, but a genuine liability to my physical well-being (and the equipment I’ve invested in).  Moshers toss themselves about nonsensically, thrashing and shoving at each other, sometimes to a discernible beat, sometimes not.  They’re certainly not watching where they are going.  And I’ll admit, when I’ve got my eye pressed up to the viewfinder, I don’t usually know where I’m going half the time either.  Put me and an exuberant mosher together and usually there will be some physical impact.  It’s for that reason that I don’t generally stay at the front for long at show with an active moshpit.

4)      The Untouchables

These people are the exact opposite of the moshers.  They suffer from an odd sort of paralysis that makes them incapable of dancing, swaying, or making any other sort perceptible movement.  I call them untouchable because, of course, they hate being touched.  Completely illogical at a rock show, where people are mashed together like sardines, or worse, commuters on the TTC at rush hour.  So, you would think that these individuals would be most comfortable leaning against the bar, or standing off to one side to the back of a venue, away from the intensity of the throng of fans.  But no; many untouchables want to be in the thick of things with the rest of us, right up at the front, where I am shooting.  And they take grave offence to every little bump or tap that I may give them in trying to shoot around the tall man in front of me or the photographer to my write, or the mic stand in front of the singer’s face.  Sometimes this offense is expressed by a simple sigh or dirty look, other times curt words or even insults are hurled at me.  Sigh, the glamorous life of a music journalist.

5)      The absurdly short girls who get mad at me for standing in front of them

At 5’8 I’m taller than the average girl, but I’m by no means a giant.  But for some reason, I always notice some seriously SHORT girls at some of these shows.  Now when I say short, I don’t mean just shorter than me.  I’m talking (and I hate to use this reference, but it works) SNOOKI short.  Adults under five feet can legitimately be called little people, and apparently there are a lot of little people that love rock and roll.  There are also a lot of little people in Toronto that hate me for blocking their “view” of the stage, when really, I think they’re mostly trying to figure out where the bassist got his shoes, because that’s all they can see.  I get tapped, poked, glared at, and even told off for stepping in front of these little mini misses time and time again, when really, I’m just trying to do my job.  My suggestion?  A little patience goes a long way; I’ll be out of your sight line in a minute or two.  Barring that? Invest in heels.

6)      The other photographer that get in all your shots

For the most part, other photographers are usually your friends, be it in the dedicated photographer’s pit, or in a crowd where we’re all fighting the same battle.  It’s a delicate dance sometimes, waiting for someone to take their shot, stepping around them without touching them if they’re in the middle of framing a shot.  This is infinitely easier in a photographer’s pit, where there’s plenty of room and few people to maneuver around.  Shooting from the crowd, photographers give each other as much berth as possible, trading spots to give everyone a chance to get that great angle.  But photographers are just people too, and like many people, can be completely unaware of their surroundings.  I freely admitted above that I occasionally fall into this category, but for the most part I try to stay out of my fellow sharpshooter’s way to the best of my ability.  But there’s almost always that one guy, who either has no idea that he’s not the only guy with a camera there, or who just doesn’t care.  He’ll stand in the same spot all night, or move in front of you right when you snap your picture.  The worst part is when you’re finally back in the comfort of your own home and editing your shots, and you see the edge of his lens, or the top of his head, or his elbow in 95% of your photos.  It’s times like those when professional courtesy seems highly overrated.

Don’t me wrong, despite all my complaining here I’ve had some amazing times this past year shooting at some amazing shows.  It’s not the easiest job in the world, but if I can avoid these guys I’ve talked about here, I consider the night a huge success.  And if even one of you, my lovely readers, can take a lesson from this column and not be one of the types of people I have enumerated above, I will be forever and eternally grateful.  So next time you’re at a show and a poor schmuck with tired eyes and a camera in his or her hands wearily tries to move past you, just be a dear and make some room.  We can’t afford to buy you a pint at the bar, but we’ll at least wish we could.

Until next time,

xo

N

A Reminder:

The First Annual Don’t Believe a Word I Say Reader’s Poll

To everyone who may be having a problem with copying and pasting the Poll from Monday’s column. Try this:1. Highlight the Poll 2. Right click on the Poll and choose ‘copy’. 3. Open a new word doc or email. 4. Right click and choose ‘Paste’, 5. Fill out the form and 6. Email either as a word.doc attachment, or as a straight email. The Poll is also available to copy and paste on my Facebook page Let me know if that works. If that doesn’t work, email me at segarini@rogers.com, and I’ll mail the Poll directly to you to fill out. That might be the easiest way. Sorry for the inconvenience. We really are interested in hearing what you have to say. Also, your answers can include any music, movies, TV, etc, from any year, not just 2011. 

Thank you,

bob

We now have an email address where all of us here at Don’t Believe a Word I Say can be contacted: dbawis@rogers.com Please use it to ask questions,  tell us what you’d like to read about, send links you’d like to share, and let us hear what you have to say.

Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

One Response to “Nadia Elkharadly: Confessions of an Amateur Rock Photographer”

  1. Nadia love the way you describe things. Top of the season & when I come to Toronto in the new year I will have you shoot my shows there. Looking for you on Facebook now 🙂

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