It has been a while since I've done a music photography advice post, but there was a recent "dust-up" that occurred, and I wanted to take some time to speak on some of the issues raised.
I'm not about to get into the details of everything that happened, but it boiled down to Facebook group drama where someone called out someone else without getting or having all the facts. A thread developed, and it descended into the maddening pit of hell that is a "Paid vs. Non-Paid" discussion. It resulted in the moderator of the group losing his damn mind, and a mass exodus happening from the group.
In hindsight, that group blowing up should have happened a long time ago.
Still, the thread exposed a lot of things that make music photography a headache at times. A very talented photographer, who has accomplished a great deal, got unfairly attacked and people got ridiculed for a variety of reasons, a lot being their age or the genre they photograph, when they came to that photographer's defense.
This reminded me that a lot of photographers are or can be, frankly, miserable human beings. Over the years, I've determined it's a combination of age, insecurity, and a complete resistance to adapt to a changing landscape. I could go on for a while about that, but that'd be about as fun as running my head through concrete.
For the record, I am 35, but please do not lump me in with the majority of my age group. I refuse to become a bitter old photographer who pines for the way things once were.
This post is not for them, though. They represent the way things were. They are the ones who got caught by technological changes that opened up access in this field to a lot more people, which threatened their position. They are the photographers that didn't adapt.
This post is for the younger generation just now getting started in the game. This is for those who do not want to operate the way a bunch of crusty killjoys insist you act. This is for those who genuinely want to forge their own path and their own way.
This is also for anyone, regardless of age, who understands the importance of adapting, changing, and not only remaining with the times but being ready to be ahead of it.
The nonsense of that thread reminded me of a key mentality I tell myself repeatedly. It's something I'm going to try and tell other photographers if and when they ask for advice of help.
DO WHAT'S BEST FOR YOU!!!!!
Go look in the mirror and see how many photographers you see. Who you see is who you should be thinking of, first and foremost, wherever you happen to go in this game.
You have to do what's best for you in this field. You have to be selfish and put yourself first. This is not a bad thing. You have to look out for your best interests before anything else.
Sure, you have to remember you might work for a publication or the particular act you're covering has certain rules to follow, and, please, don't forget that. Still, once you get past those aspects, everything else should be a matter of what works best for you.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret: There is no high and mighty document governing music photography. There is nothing written in stone or blood. It's all based on each and individual show.
What I'm trying to say is don't ever let a photographer tell you that you can't do something because "that's just the way it is" or, especially, "it will be bad for everyone else.
Everyone else should be taking care of themselves just like you should be taking care of yourself. If you want to shoot a show for no compensation and are alright with valuing your work that way, well, that's your decision and your call. The same goes for people who want to put a price tag or high financial value on their work. Wonderful. More power to them. The fact remains that you should never ever let anyone tell you otherwise to the value you set yourself. It is your work. You determine the path to take with it.
I know this will ruffle some feathers out there, but please keep in mind that I would not be writing this if I did not stand completely by this belief system. I am happy and comfortable with my position in things so, well, that should tell you a lot.
I'm not advocating being a jerk to people, but I'm also not advocating compromising your beliefs or approach to photography just to go along with some inflated sense of unity and sticking together. That just doesn't work in this field, no matter what others try to say.
This also goes for whatever visual style and aesthetic you want to establish. Find the style you like and pursue it. If it is contrary to what is popular or what everyone else is doing, that's perfectly alright because, again, it's what works best for you. Find your path and take it. Run with it and make it your own. Find inspiration in strange new places. Take this field in crazy new directions.
The same can be said for workflow and a whole slew of other things. Find a way and a method that works for you and go with it. Just because others might not be doing it that way does not mean you can't. It, in fact, might open news doors for you. You never know until you try.
Do your own thing and help take this field into crazy new directions. Music photography definitely needs it.
I sincerely hope this advice helps. It's something that I felt needed to be said.