Alright, that's enough now

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jeremy you arsehole

I was going to leave this as an aside for the pod, and since the last time(s) I had decided to drop this and leave for the venues/other punters/bands to sort out, if they cared.

If you've ever been to a gig in Shanghai you'll have noticed that event photographers and overenthusiastic hobbyists with expensive toys often use them as their personal studios. They generally break several rules that are accepted, and even enforced everywhere else. For example:

* No flash photography at shows.
* No taking pictures of bands or punters without permission first.
* Don't annoy or block people who paid money to see the show.

The Pet Conspiracy show was particularly bad for this. It pretty much killed my enjoyment of the first two bands as I was constantly looking at them as they buzzed around in front of me and tried to directly take my picture continuously. Despite my best attempts to keep out of their shots and concentrate on the show - there I f*cking am, in a gallery posted at Shanghaiist. 

The douchey photog in the black Antidote shirt was on fine form, boogie-ing away as he worked and running around like hyperactive kindergarten kid. At one point free t-shirts were thrown into the crowd and as Jake bent down to pick one up, that guy literally ran across to jump in front and whip it out of his reach, before throwing it back to the DJs to be thrown out to someone else. It's like he had a one man mission against the paying audience. I see from this gallery that the guy strutting around the crowd using a flash next to people's faces must have been Kosuke Sato. 

Perhaps I'm getting everyone mixed up. I know, why don't you all post your headshots and resumes at one site so we can all know who the top party photographers are.

But really, that's enough guys, please. I saw photographer web2asia of Flickr at the show with his camera and he somehow managed to not get in the way at all. It can be done.

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helloo - my web2asia google alert just got me here :-) should check by more frequently - fun to see the music blog scene developing.

despite the positiv mention from andy i now feel bad for having taken pics that night, cause i definitely belong to the category of "overenthusiastic hobbyists" (not to mention my 1,90m) :-/ i dont shoot for any magazines just for the fun of it - some of it goes on flickr, some i dont know yet what to do with it.

there really were too many guys with slr's around that night (density wasnt as high as on an average sunday afternoon in taikang lu, but cha bu duo ;-) i agree with andy that for the large venues like mao and dream factory, things should be better regulated and photographers that dont play along to the rules be banned (rule of thumb btw is usually only first 3 songs with flash and of course not to get in the way of the audience). im ready to make up my own media company and apply for a photo pass each time :-). however in the end its really the business of the venue - as with all things you cant expect it to regulate itself, youll always have freeriders unless someone really controls & enforces it top down (dont give me hippy crap now treehuggers). anyways, there you go. ive said it. now you have it, andy: without probably wanting it you've set something in motion that will mark the end of our happy anarchistic shanghai live music scene - things can only go down from here ... :-P

I f*cking hate them, I hope they never ever come to any gig anymore. they drive me crazy! they act like they are the press at a mariah carey concert or something.if any of them happen to see this post, i've got a word for them "YOU THINK YOU ARE SO COOL WITH YOUR PHOTOS,WE JUST WANT TO THE SHOW!SO F*CK OFF."

Thanks for the comment George.

Of course, if people observed basic respect, then there'd be no need for regulations. Taking shots continuously from the crowd through the entire set is so out there and disrespectful.

You manage to balance it, so why can't they.

Pet Conspiracy always put on a highly photogenic show, so of course everyone wants photos. There's a difference between snapping off the odd shot on your point and standing right at the front for the entire show with an enormous camera. If you've got such a long lense on it, can't you stand near the back somewhere and just zoom in?! Seriously, standing in front of fans/people their to see the bands for the entire set is not on. Neither is taking photos of the audience who don't want you to. It's one thing taking shots of people happily dancing or playing up to the camera, it's another taking shots of people who clearly don't want you to or are just standing around trying to watch the gig. Which category do you think the one above falls into?

Don't get me started on the t-shirt thing. I'll talk about it on the pod, but we may need to edit it heavily to fit into our usual time.

I know that feeling. You just want to enjoy the show and sum dumbass is jumping in front of you, letting your gf and you see nothing of the band. Or you are in a moshpit and FLASH get blinded by a Canon camera (if at least a Nikon).

I usually take photos in the following way:
- from my place whereever I stand
- a couple at the beginning if there is a particular intro otherwise
- several on the second or third song, but not too many
- important note: I usually love to just put my cam back and jump into the mosh pit with the cam in my bag, hehe... no risk no fun
- last but not least. After the pics: dance, bang or mosh...

I remember Jake and I were talking about this at YYT on Sunday as someone was sitting at the bar taking photos. I agree with most of the above comments. I don't mind have a few photographers at the gig but when it gets in the way of my enjoyment -- getting hit by assholes with a huge flash and camera bag is my big pet peeve -- I just want them banned. Half the time their photos are just crap anyway.


JG, that guy taking photos at the bar was Han Han! Panda took a couple for him as well. Han Han's lense on that camera is ridiculous, never seen such a big one (ahem), but at least he had the good sense and common courtesy to take them from the bar (at YYT this is) and from the side of the room. Panda got in the way a bit, but he only took like three photos and then was done. If there'd been more than a dozen people there, you probably wouldn't have noticed him either.

It's fine to take photos if you want, just don't ruin other people's enjoyment of the gig and, like Max says, it helps if you give a shit about the music as well rather than just turning up for your money shot of some "alternative China" thing and not really supporting the bands. I snap a few off on my point and shoot, maybe catch the odd video for the blog and then proceed to dance or mosh like a loon for the rest of the night. It's the best way, I find

I guess if everyone knew about the whole "only the first 3 songs" thing then it might improve stuff. This is the first time I've heard about it.

Don't really know what the answer is- I find the big camera crowd less annoying than having literally 1/3 of the people watching a show taping the whole thing on their cell phone (seen this mainly in the UK). At least the photogs might get something reasonable.

I guess for the event photographers they don't really get the difference between M1NT where people would kill to have their photo taken, and a gig where most would just rather not.

Andy, sorry to hear about the bad experience. It's a dilemma for venues: lots of people taking and posting pictures at gigs then posting them online is good publicity, but as you point out it's annoying to the rest of the audience. It's hard for us, especially in so large a venue, to police the behavior of customers, but we're trying to find a good system.

I'd be curious to hear your suggestions. What I've proposed is that we accredit no more than two or three professional photographers per show, whoever requests in advance, and otherwise ban flash photography (or at least herd the hobbyists to the back). There's a reason most events have a "photographers' pen" and then have only a few staff photogs up in the action. (Unfortunately what makes a good photographer is not what makes a good concert goer, hey.)

Not sure if that approach will work, but I'm tossing it out for discussion. We welcome your input.

So, I'm the fat grumpy guy with the beer in the foreground. Actually not so grumpy, just blinded by the floods at that particular point. Note the expert 'gut-shelf' action there.

Anyways. There was a western dude with a beard with big ass slr who I'm guessing was you George as i did comment to Andy that you managed to be pretty much unobtrusive the whole night. So props to you for proving it's possible to not be 'all up in our grill' and take some good shots :)

Interestingly your own ninja-like activities served only to magnify the utter twattish behaviour of some of your compadres. Shame on them.

Beard guy was Breningstall.

George was so ninja you didn't even see him.

Fair enough. 2 guys who managed to get it right then in that respect. Shame about the other 10. I guess you are none too happy about having the pic taken and the permission matter is just as juicy an issue in itself but he was still unobtrustive in my mind compared to the others.

Sure, but if I'm at a gig that I paid for and someone is wandering in front of me and starts to point an SLR at me without asking then it's over the line, for me.

If the venue or band has one guy/gal who is doing some shots and from the wings or stage, then fine. Anything more at these small gigs is a pain.

I think I ought to weigh in with a defense of rock photography. First, let me note that I am a lover of both music and taking pictures. No, I don't see myself as some kind of self-styled paparazzi.

In recent months, I've shifted away from taking pictures at shows when I'm not required to do so for reasons of publication- but this is just because I find I enjoy the music more without a camera, not out of any principle. So many people are taking so many pictures today that no one will ever look at again, including the photographer's themselves.

Taking top quality pictures is hard. It's not something that you can simply do by standing in a corner behind a row of crowd heads or by taking a quit snapshot. It has to be done artfully, waiting to be in the right position at the right moment.

I do think that concert photography, when done well, is pretty awesome. Live music is an experience that happens instant and pictures are part of capturing that instant forever. And for all the griping going on here, I suspect a few of you love looking at concert photos too. I know I do.

There is some minimal decorum that should apply. As a photographer, I try my best to be courteous and not get in people's way too much. When I take photos of the crowd, I try to step out, snap the picture quickly, then move on to another spot.

While I've shifted away from taking concert pictures using flash in recent months, I would hesitate to apply this as a rigid rule. I enjoyed the photos Kosuke Sato took for SmartShanghai and those kind of pictures can only be taken with a flash. I didn't really notice what his method was for getting those pictures, but I think a quick flash is okay as long as you're not steadily shooting the flash in people's faces through the whole set. Ideally, a diffuser or bounce is on so that people don't get blinded.

As for the permission issue- when you're taking pictures of dozens or hundreds of people in a room with blasting speakers, entering into a discussion with each photo subject simply isn't a possibility- nor is it desirable, unless you want an album full of pictures of the peace-sign waving variety. I like to catch spontaneous, improvised photos. On the other hand, if someone clearly signals they don't want a picture taken by shaking their head or some sign like that, I simply move on to the next person, that's just simple respect. A wagged middle finger is not an adequate sign- middle fingers have become as ubiquitous as peace symbols as a party pose among the Shanghai crowd.

There's my two cents. I love reading this blog. It's nice to have all the in-depth coverage of Chinese music, which I still feel like a novice on even after having gone to see many shows. And I liked George's pictures, I haven't looked through his Flickr albums before but I think head over there again for a deeper look.

You will see me taking pictures again, I can guarantee that. But I'll try not to be too much of a pest. Cheers.

Thanks for coming on the blog and making a long comment.

You'll note also that other commenters made a distinction between you and the other, more aggressive snappers.

@Lisa: A few comments from my experience with other venues (no clue if you have security or roadies or sth like that):

- Make professional photographers register in advance, even if it is a quick "hello, it's me, I do it for XYZ" at the bar. That at least gives you an overview, who is there and for what they give you coverage. Furthermore it adds a level of effort into the whole game, keeping some guys out (reduction of number of photo freaks).
- Make a no flash policy. Some bands are ok with it, but in general people using flash should not be allowed. At German concerts (e.g. Silbermond), if you use a flash, you are thrown out of the venue and not allowed to enter for the whole concert.
- Photos only allowed during the first three songs, then the first row MUST be clear and cameras taken away. Gives everyone the chance to take some pics, but not the whole set ruining the show. Moreover those guys that cannot take a set from three songs, will not be able to do so during the whole show.
- Make a dedicated area for photographers (first row separation, but only for people kneeing; a small area next to the boxes on the left or right; background area of the stage to the left and right; entry of stage not permitted)
- Make a couple of signs and print the rules for photographs below. Everybody can see it, everybody can adhere to, fair game.
- Don't be harsh on amateur guys. Mostly its their first or second show and everybody has the right to capture a moment here or there. Just make sure that no flash is used. Use of the "polite notice" policy is recommended: first time an amateur makes a photo, politely point him/her to the rules and let him/her go. Second time, be more strict, third time, let him/her leave the venue.
- Open a Flickr group esp. for photos taken at your venue and ask everyone to submit it their shots from the first to third song to show them that their pics are appreciated even though they should stick to a couple of them.
- Addon: Print out a small rule book for good concert photography (enough tips and hints on Flickr, etc.) and the top 3 tips next to the rules (less is more), quality counts over quantity
- Check with the bands if they have a friend / dedicated guy to take photos. Give that guy a pass (hardcopy) and make sure he adhere's to the rule of 3 songs as well
- Difficult to implement the 3 songs rule on bands playing 20 minutes, but for those bands performing 1h it works quite well.
- Tell those photographers to kneel down in the first row (otherwise their head is in the way of others)

hmmm... so far so good ;)

@ Jeremy Breningstall: Using a flash for concert photography is ... a two-sided medal. I know that one can take great photos with a flash, e.g. Brad Ferguson's pics on the Shanghai Streets blog had been nice and also Yiren Katoshi has done some good things, not to speak of Greenwall, but honestly speaking, the art of concert photography is for me, without flash, always and ever. Those nice ghost-like effects are ok, but those nicely shown jumps, etc. should better be done during studio gig shots (people playing in a studio), same energy, no disturbance by the mighty flash.

Now for good shots at concerts, get quicker lenses. A Nikon f1.8 50mm is rather cheap (~800 RMB when I bought it) and a decent f1.4 is also within grasp of photo fans. As you said, it's the right moment, the right time, the right spot, so better learn the lights. Most concerts have rather purely done lighting effects. Standard programs with switching lights going through the colours and repetive actions (green 10s, red 5s, blue 10s, etc.) If you know what comes next, you are easily able to shoot what you want. The movement of the band is the unexpected part, but that's the fun of shooting. Get in, take your chances and make the best out of it (esp. with the movement-intensive 50mm). As you said, even as photographer you are always part of the audience and one has to take care of others...

I just have to jump in to defend my use of flash back in the Shanghai Streets days. Most of those shots were at Live Bar, where they had basically no lighting -- I had a f1.8 50mm and couldn't get faster than 1/20s even at ISO1600. Plus, there was a white cloth hanging above the stage, which gave a really nice flash bounce. At a venue like Mao, with decent lighting, there is absolutely no need for a flash.

I'm not as anti-photographer as Andy, but I do think that there are way too many "party photographers" with big SLRs and big flashes who take more photos of the crowd than of the bands.

I think we're probably about the same on this Brad, just that I've come to the end of my patience with the whole issue because of the more extreme guys.

I now come back on this post to apologize for my harsh language earlier. But please understand that it's very hard to keep calm when my gig experience get constantly ruined on a regular basis. But if photographers think that taking "good and skillful"photos for people to see after the gig,or taking photos for people who didn't come to the gig is actually more important than people who actually come and pay to see the gig... then well...they deserve my harsh language.

gig are photos. Personally, if I am interested in a gig, I go to see it. If I am not interested enough to be at a gig, I usually don't care about the photos. Anyone's the same? or are large amount of people just sit at home on weekends going thru gig photos while rocking on? When I do go into gig albums, I usually lood at thumbnails and click on a couple of each bands. Some photographer, funny enough, i think the amount of photos they take in one gig are enough for them to stick a live video together,eh....Oh and how can we forget those who get in the middle of a mosh pit for photos! GOOD FOR YOU,BRAVE SOLDIER!

anyway, i think photographer is an important tool for art,to spread art,including music of course. but when it gets in the way of the actually experience of enjoy art, all i could say is @#$%^&*.

@jake aya! My bad!


haha...I guess I am one of those guys with the annoying flashes that takes pictures during the entire show.

hey Abe, I haven't seen you for so long.were you at the shows?


Abe, I don't seem to remember you pushing around the crowd sticking it in people's faces or holding a huge dslr up in the way of the view.

Max, thank you for the great suggestions. I'll bring them up with the regular Mao crew, and see what we can do.

Mao does now have a Flickr group: Everyone's encouraged to join, and add their images.

If you'll forgive my getting off topic, I wanted to make sure everyone knows that Mao's grand opening will be next Friday, 11/20 - a free show with Jason Taylor, BIZ, and rare treat appearances by Crystal Butterfly and The Mushrooms. Details at Personally, I'm lobbying for Pupu and Pangpang to do a duet - I would love to see Shanghai's two most charismatically frenetic frontmen share a stage.

@Evans: Not sure if you meant me rgd. the brave soldier (cause of the mosh pit thing) ;), but rest assured, in the mosh pit I do not take photos, but am rather occupied with jumping and being jumped around, hehe

Furthermore: "If I am not interested enough to be at a gig, I usually don't care about the photos", that's true if you talk about a specific gig, but mostly gig photos are interesting for the bands in the following fields:
- CD Booklets and photo books about the band (think 5 years from now, a book about the tours in China of let's say Subs???)
- Websites so others can see how the usual show is (energetic, calm, etc.) & as design elements for the website / flyer

They are also pretty useful for the venue itself, cause if you have never been there (and I guess at least 10.5 million Chinese have not been in MAO), they can check out the general atmosphere for venues. Hint for party photographers: If you see a set of any particular party, count the number of individual girls shown in different poses in the photos. And what the angle of the photo is. Very often, low-visited partys / events / gigs feature a high number of girls on pics (always the same ones with diff guys) and never ever have a wide angle or a not-steep one, thereby hiding the background (which would be an empty venue)...

@Lisa: You're welcome ;) at first, when I encountered the 3 songs rule, I was a little taken aback, but after a while I got used to it and it works for both the photographes (aka press) and the audience, as well as the band, so it's fair game.

@Brad: I guess that time I already asked about your flash pics. The f1.8 50mm is really nice, I love it, but in no-light venues (D22 is a similar one, they have minimal light settings, and photos look similar to the Live Bar Shanghai for me: red wall in the background) there is not much to do, well, get closer, or stick to the standards... but then no-light venues are usually more interesting to mosh around than to get great pics. Better give the bands the setting they are worth, e.g. MAO Beijing or Star Live with a huge lighting system.

I just got back from the YACHT tour so haven't been around much..that and I am lazy....sadly my holga has a built in flash that is weak...otherwise I could also blind people....haha...isn't a mosh more fun when you can't see what you are running into.....

Max, let's face it, people has no interest in the scene will not suddenly get into rock and come to shows just becuz of photo or a hundred photos doesnt make a difference. I am not saying no photos should be taken at all. Just those a few particular people ... they are just too much.

@Evans: I am not in Shanghai right now, so I don't know how many photo freaks are running around the shows and really making it annoying or not... so I can only guess on what you are experiencing right now. I myself had that situation that some guy was always in front of me or jumping left, jumping right, just to take a pic with his stylish new SLR.

I guess the critical point here is the thin line of what's acceptable as "take a pic for the show" to "do the mass of I-can-do-it-cause-I-have-a-SLR-cam pics".

And question is: you mention that people having no interest in the scene would anyway no come. in 2004 I met a couple of people coming to shows the first time (e.g. Reflector show or Sick Pupa show, both in the SUS2 Factory ground). They liked rock music before and were noticed about the gigs by friend. Well, looking at how I find out about new places or gigs or venues, I try to google them, try to find at least a couple of comments from people and maybe a video or a couple of photos. I assume (am not sure) that Chinese or expat guys/girls are doing the same. So a few pics here or there might do the trick. But the point is on "a few pics". Those guys doing a hundred pics a show are not to be considered in the range of good photographers for that. At least that's my impression. Yet, I am not in Shanghai, so I cannot judge what you experience at present.

Forgive my ignorance ;)

I'm struggling to find a way in which Jeremy Breningstall's photograph of a few expats standing around with their arms crossed looking bored is actually promoting the music scene. To me it comes off as just being a jerk. They didn't give their permission, so it shouldn't be posted. Basic photography ethics. Jeremy Breningstall has posted pictures of people who are actually holding up their hands to get him to not take their photographs, why would he post them?

He's an obvious candidate for a lifetime ban.

Right on with Evans. "It promotes the scene" is nonsense. Nobody looks at photographs of a music event days after the concert and decides to check out the next show. Unless there's strippers or something.

I'll have to disagree with everyone who think it doesn't promote the scene: a lot of people first hear about and develop an interest in local rock through press reports, blogs and friends' Douban etc pages. It also helps with the wider ripple - that people not in Shanghai know there's a good scene here, even people in Shanghai but not going to gigs know they exist. Moreover it's valuable to have a record of concerts. But of course it's a trade-off, not just the inconvenience to others but also people who watch concerts through their camera LCD are missing out (and rather boring).

For Mao we've drafted a basic photo guilelines list - for the audience. It's a double standard, but we have to give professional photographers shooting for press, for the venue and for the bands greater leeway - but we'll keep their ranks limited. So here's what we're trying out, and we welcome further input:

"Audience photography rules
1. No flash photography
2. Please only take photographs during the first three songs of each set
3. No tripods in the front section
4. Be respectful of your fellow audience members
Professional media photographers and videographers please register with the front desk to obtain a press pass. Be advised we have a limited number of free press tickets available each show for journalists and photographers who reserve them in advance - please inquire at the desk for details."

Last night at the 0093 show, I totally understand this annoyance. There were at least 15 people with SLRs (I have one too, but I used my pocket point and shoot last night). There was a couple of times that this guy with a (very nice) Canon had the temerity to look annoyed when he got hit by the edge of the mosh pit. Dude, you're at a rock show. There will be pits. If you don't want to get hit, shoot in the back.

Yeah, Terence that's one of the strange parts.

People who are blindly disregarding other people while then getting angry at the first minute slight on themselves.

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