Although it’s true that every picture tells a story, many have stories behind them that are even more interesting than the actual photo. This seemingly innocent picture of Eduardus Halim performing in a recital hall at Sacramento State last November is an example. Booking a recital of this caliber (Halim is, I am told, a world famous classical pianist) at a small venue such as the Sac State recital hall is quite an accomplishment. But that's not the story.
I am not a classical music fan. I don’t dislike it; I just don’t feel a need to be at all educated on the ins and outs of the trade. I was, of course, in the extreme minority. Most in attendance were well versed on the “players” (sorry) in the classical music game. They knew the music. Others were music majors. And they knew the music as well. It was, in a round-about way, the music students that I was there to cover; not the event, not the music.
The task was an online, multi-media story for an online journalism class. My press credential allowed me free admission and access. The story was not on the performance of Halim or even that one among the upper echelon of concert pianists world-wide was gracing humble Sac State. The story was about the struggle of the music student and the recital experience - an experience that takes place in that very same recital hall. Halim’s success represents the epitome of his industry. I was there to document the contrast - the ultimate goal of so many up-and-coming music students, classical or otherwise.
Halim came to Sacramento by airplane. I’m not sure where he came from, but the sponsor(s) of his appearance no doubt paid for his airfare and lodging. I’m quite sure he received a percentage of the $10 admission fee as well. What I didn’t know until I started taking pictures was that he also had an entourage. He had people. It turns out that his people did not like me taking pictures – not one little bit.
I wasn’t given a reason, and I didn’t ask. I had enough shots by the time they stopped me. I was also recording audio… I’m sure they would have stopped that as well – if they knew. But maybe not - here’s the thing: I did not see any signs forbidding photography or audio recording anywhere. It wasn’t stated anywhere on the ticket or any of the flyers and brochures distributed. It wasn’t on the program anywhere. I appreciate that the camera’s shutter noise might have distracted him and I did not shoot during the quiet passages. And, of course, I didn’t use a flash. It’s highly unlikely that he could see me at all with the lights focused on him. Indeed, it’s unlikely he even knew I was shooting.
But his peeps knew. As soon as the brief intermission came, they were on me. Ok, not on me physically, but two or three rushed up to where I was seated and told me in hushed whispers that photography was not allowed. Again, I didn’t ask why but I have a couple of guesses. It could be that, like his music, his image has some monetary value to it. Usually, they are cool with the press but I don’t think they knew whom I represented. It could be that they felt I was a distraction (during the quiet passages, you could hear a pin drop!), but I don’t think I was. Maybe that was just their job and they didn’t even know why.
I was told once upon a time that I should never ask for permission. It was explained to me that someone without the authority to say yes will always say no just to cover his or her ass. If there is no communication to the contrary, my assumption will always be permission is granted. Let them tell me and, if I deem it necessary, tell me why and under whose authority as well. Is it any wonder I shoot with a Canon Digital Rebel?
I’m not sure what the status of this photo is. It’s mine – I took it. And I took it under the rules as I understood them at the time. The entourage was not particularly aggressive, but they did seem a little amazed – as if this just isn’t done. Sorry, no one told me. And they didn’t ask for my memory card, not that it would have done them any good. I wasn’t going to give it up... not without a major “distraction” anyway. And the rules are different for the audio I captured as well – that’s bootleg. Bootleg Chopin - gotta love it!
So here I am, throwing caution to the wind. Published for the entire world to see is Mr. Eduardus Halim, pianist extraordinaire.