Last weekend I had the privilege of photographing Rocco-fashioned, symphonic metal band Versailles. As I was led to believe, they have not previously allowed many outside photographers to shoot them live, so I was determined to do my best to earn my coveted place at the final show in their World Tour. Whether or not I accomplished that remains to be seen as outside of the gig itself, I haven’t yet been able to peruse the photos. I handed the memory card over to the editor of the magazine I was shooting for after the gig, and am waiting for them to be mailed to me. From scanning through though, I’m pretty certain there are some amazing photos to come, so stay tuned for those.
Handing over of the memory card to someone else got me thinking about images, photographers, artists and their subjects. Who owns these images? I took the photos with my camera, using what I hope are my artistic sensibilities to set up and shoot some good photos. But I put my photos, other people’s images, onto someone else’s memory card and effectively disowned them when I handed that card over. Or at least, that’s how it feels. I guess I am protective of my work.
I have no experience of shooting major bands in Western countries, so I am unfamiliar with the process of publishing images of musicians, but I suspect it is quite different from the set up with a lot of bands here. Very often when I’ve shot bands before, I send over the images to the magazine editor, who then selects the shots they want to use and then sends those to the band’s management. These photos are then approved for use or not. Last weekend, knowing that the vast majority of images would probably be rejected, I was asked to aim for 900 photos during the 2-hour show. This would be cut to perhaps 300 to send to management, and then perhaps 75 might be approved for the publication (to provide a blow-by-blow visual account of the concert to readers).
This practice was made most clear to me last year when I was photographing the Asia Girls Explosion, a fashion event featuring X Japan Yoshiki’s Yoshikimono collection, guest appearances from Marilyn Manson among others, and a live show with X-Japan themselves and Violet UK. Prior to the show beginning, we were given a long sheet detailing the uses of the images by media and blogs – the amount of skin exposure would be determined by the management, and all images for use by the media would need to be approved prior to use (though fortunately, not blogs).
Sound strange? Should I not be able to use any image I deem to be acceptable, by the merit that I photographed that image? In most cases yes, but in this case I don’t think so. Visual Kei by its very definition is all about appearances, so control of that image is paramount, and rightly so. Allowing photos of your band not looking their very best would be damaging to the image they have constructed – double chins and inappropriate smiling do not the VK band make. The fact that Versailles spend a good few hours getting ready to perform would be all for nought if one of the beautiful Hizaki’s false eyelashes was snapped slipping down his face.
I used to think that this sort of thing should be practised on Facebook to prevent people tagging pictures of you with a man’s face plastered to your corset-enhanced cleavage (ahem), or drooling quietly in the back of a karaoke box when you passed out due to over-exerting yourself on a Dream Theatre song. I guess that’s why you can now approved photos with you in, though sadly that doesn’t stop them existing at all.
In the end, I checked out what my concert photography go-to-guru Todd Owyoung had to say on the issue, which negated much of the mental hand-wringing you’ve just read. Thank you, Todd.
I was up until 2.30am last night photographing my friend’s bar for what may amount to a few seconds of air-time on a TV show tomorrow night between 9 and 10pm. You can see the website for the show here. There was a good event on, with lots of people enjoying themselves, so I hope I managed to capture the energy of the event, as well as the artwork on the walls. So, I’ll be posting about the different way to drink a bar dry in a few days – there’s always plenty going on at this bar, and plenty of challenges for low-light photography.