Monday, 7 September 2009

Camp Bestival crowd

Is it just me or does this reeeeeally not make sense?

As part of my summer shoot, I had to take pics at Camp Bestival at Lulworth Castle in Dorset. Haaad to, I mean; what an absolute CHORE. Not. It was the last shot on the list and I'd been in touch with the PR people (much to the distaste or the book's authors, but that's another story) way in advance in order to get press access.
Although I knew full well the shots I would supply my picture editor with would most likely be ones of the crowd, the vibe, the quirkiness of the festival goers, the scenery etc., I couldn't let the opportunity to take live band shots pass.

There's just something about the raw energy, exhibitionism and the unpredictability of live performances that I can't resist. You get three songs and usually have to wrestle with the other photographers for the best position but the pace is always electrifying. Camp Bestival was quite pop-oriented so that meant roughly 10-15mins shooting each band before the burly, earplugged bouncers move you on your way. My first experience of festival photography, however, was at the Dirty Three-curated ATP last year and, owing to the bouncers not quite understanding the concept of the segue, (or 15-minute post rock pieces for that matter) quite often got the whole set to shoot through.

You can usually rely on festival stages being well illuminated thereby rendering flash unnecessary. This is great for my fucky-ISOed D2Xs however this time around I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a D700 which made things a whole lot easier. I alternate between a 50mm f/1.4 and 24-70mm f/2.8 but, must confess, prefer the flexibility of the zoom to the fixed focus. It depends how much the performer moves around a too; the 50mm is great for the slow build of post rock performances but I prefer the challenge of photographing pogoing teenage indiepop bands.

I digress. Camp Bestival was a family-friendly festival which meant kids EVERYWHERE. I jest not; we were the odd ones out for NOT having designer babies or hippie, flower-haired children. It seemed, somehow, to mean that music choice wasn't high on the agenda and that every other performance was Beardyman.Interesting to begin with but a leeetle dull after a while. I was pleased to note Wild Beasts on the bill and, here's where we get to the point of today's post....

I got to the stage just before they were about to start. I needn't have worried about not getting through the crowd to the front; Will Young was performing on the main stage so no one wanted to see Wild Beasts. Fools. Barely even any other photographers. Double fools. Lucky me, thought I. I'd photographed Wild Beasts before so I knew what sorts of shots to expect; a screwed up face of the bassist, pained expressions, that kinda thing. I took my shots, tried to get a little inventive by utilising the funny shrubbery around the stage to see if that made it more interesting. It didn't. The bouncer politely asked me to leave the pit area after three songs. I did as I was told and rejoined the crowd. It just so happened that my friend was right at the front and there was virtually no one in the tent owing to the aforementioned Will Young so I was still in pole position for great shots of the band. I saw no reason to stop shooting so I kept my camera out in case a photogenic moment occurred. And it's at this point a bouncer – a different one to the one who'd seen me snapping the band I must point out – decided to tell me I wasn't allowed to use my professional camera to take any more shots. If I had a small camera - a point and shoot - I would be allowed to take pictures. If I had been using a cameraphone, I would be allowed to take pictures but because my camera is large and professional-looking, I am no longer allowed to take pictures. I said "But I have a press pass", he said no. "So....anyone else can take pictures and do what they want with them...but I can't?" Right....

Does this sound reasonable? Or am I being completely unrealistic here?