Rich Copley: If you must use that cellphone camera at a show, just don't block my view

Herald-Leader culture columnistMay 17, 2014 

I was at a concert last month where the audience was told, as they are at many concerts, that no photography was allowed. I leaned over to my companion and said, "Good luck with that."

It's been a standard concert demand for decades, but we are in a different technological era now. Whereas a decade or so ago, you'd have only a few people going to a show with a camera, almost everyone who walks into the theater now has a digital camera in their pocket in the form of a cellphone. You sure as heck aren't going to start collecting everyone's cellphones before, say, a Rupp Arena show.

A lot of events have modified the camera restriction to "professional cameras and lenses" or some such language, meaning they acknowledge the Instagrammers of the world are going to do their thing, but they want to keep out people with the gear to shoot truly marketable images, which is a legitimate restriction.

But some promoters and artists stranded in the 20th century still want to restrict everything, and it can get kind of funny and annoying.

During the show I was at, Pat Benatar's concert at Lexington Opera House, sure enough, people were whipping out smartphones and snapping away as soon as she hit the stage. For a while, ushers tried to admonish the scofflaws in an exercise that became more annoying and distracting than the actual photography.

I was reminded of this by a friend's Facebook posts about the recent Cirque du Soleil shows at Rupp Arena. She described personnel swooping in to reprimand anyone who so much as looked at a cellphone.

Producers, it is the 21st century. It is the smartphone era. You are not going to win this battle.

Taking a picture at a big event and sharing it is part of the communal experience of our time. Your shows are big events. You must accept this and also acknowledge that the vast majority of photos taken are little more than personal, digital mementos of the event. Let it go, and let everyone have a good time.

Now, audience: Don't go overboard, and be sensitive to where you are. The cellphone picture of a concert has become part of the experience, but there is nothing more annoying than being behind the guy who decides he wants to shoot or record the whole show and plants his LCD screen between you and the stage the whole night.

There are still places where taking pictures during shows is not appropriate. I have seen a few pix taken during Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra concerts and other classical music shows, but not many. I would not do it myself except during ovations. Photos at theater performances generally are frowned on, too, as is generally the case at any venue where some level of concentration is being practiced by much of the audience. These are environments where audiences have long been expected to stay seated and focus on the performance.

But if you're at a rock show or something similar, sure, get a few shots. Make sure you get a good one, then put the phone away and enjoy the show. Be considerate of the people around you who are trying to do the same, and don't make yourself a distraction by filling up your phone's memory with concert pictures and videos. Use some common sense.

Common sense should tell you one other thing: Performances are no place for an iPad.

Yes, tablet computers take pictures. But their screens are too large and bright to be anything but a complete distraction in a darkened theater. In particular, I see this a lot at student shows; if you are sitting close to someone doing that, it can ruin your night. Leave the tablets at home and use a cellphone or regular camera in moderation to record your memories.

Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Email: Twitter: @copiousnotes.

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