Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Forbidden Photo

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.

23 comments:

abrowncow said...

when i worked in Government and Public Relations for a rather large national company i was always told by my superiors that it's easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.

way to go.

thanks for stopping by my little world.

kate said...

Ohhhhh I am tellinggggggggggggg *wink

Marisol said...

"Bootleg Chopin" ...I laughed out loud.

Nice picture. Way to live on the edge! ...and BTW, I share your feelings for classical music. Sure its pretty and sometimes even powerful, but really...

Disillusioned said...

No one asked Britney Spears' permission to snap the infamous pantyless picture....

A Digital Rebel? VERY nice camera! (I've got a lousy little 700 IS Digital Elph, but it's brand new and I love it anyway.)

chrysalis said...

hehehehehe
nayce.

Awareness said...

Great story! You rascally wabbit, you.

You know Mike, I think we are made of the same cloth. Rules shmules I say! Despite the fact (or maybe because of the fact) that I work in a world of bureaucratic rule binding, I somehow manage to twist and bend them.....oh and NEVER ask what the "protocol" is.

If you ask, you give someone who doesn't know what to do with power......power.........which in itself is horrifying. The amount of ass covering decisions I see and experience in the run of a day is mind blowing.......


So.............throw caution upstream and paddle away......!!!!


OH......mercy, mercy me.........

Sarch said...

Great shot. A very interesting take on the whole experience you shared there Michael.

You are the quintessential "human observer".

Thumper said...

You *can't* ask permission and expect to get the shots you need...even with posted signs a jourmalist almost has to take the risk and shot away, until he's told to stop.

I know diddly about classical music, but I do enjoy listening--I would have gotten caught up in the music and would have not gotten the story...

K said...

I'm not a fan of permissions...and I only do so out of respect sometimes. Of course if I hear no, I continue to push and ask questions anyways, but that's just me :)

People can be funny like that...I totally agree about the non-authority figures covering their asses. It's actually kind of funny to watch the squirm sometimes :) Glad you got the pics!

LADY LUXIE said...

oh' how bad! eeh!..eeh!..eeh!..
( wicked giggle)

Bob-kat said...

It is interesting that they made you stop but that nothing there said that photography was not allowed. It is also interesting that they didn't ensure you had wiped your memory card. Doesn't quite add up in my mind. Hmmm, I think they didn't know why they were stopping you, it was just their job. Performers can be soooo precious dahling!

Badoozie said...

i would guess the no picture thing is some kind of unspoken classical music artsy fartsy rules...you know the type, like for opera you just DONT dress down. those people are snooty, and they assume that you know their little codes.

i'm like you, i had to go to things like that for one of my core classes art 101 or whatever it was. i don't mind art, just not looking at it all day and having to interpret it. or music is fine, i just don't want to have to think too deeply about bars, and riff's and whatever that stuff is.

kimbofo said...

Interesting post...Taking photographs at any concert - rock or classical - has been forbidden for as long as I can remember. It's to protect the artists' copyright of their image, because some unsavoury souls will use the images to make money. Most venues will turn a blind eye to it now, because how on earth can you police it when EVERYONE has a digital camera these days?

Anna said...

I never really liked rules. Not that I intentionally break them. Good for you Mike for getting your shot.

Anna said...

I forgot to add this...

When I saw U2 in concert in 2005...Bono had everyone get out their cell phones and posed so we could all take pics. In the 70's (i've heard)...that everyone got out lighters...now, people get out their cell phones and hold them up...it was neat looking to see a whole arena doing that.

Bono is definitely cool and gives U2 fans what they want....to be treated like valued fans.

JMH said...

You and the young Andre Agassi.
Stick it to the Classical Man.
I'm sent by Michele.

Em said...

I'm no classical fan...and have never heard of this guy. But if he thinks your one little photo here cuts into his income somehow, then he has way too much time on his hands to think about stuff! Surely you did not interfere with the concert or his livelihood in any way!

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Your visit to my corner led me here...and I really enjoyed what I read!

Snaggle Tooth said...

Usually, if it's forbidden, that info would be prominently displayed in the program hand-bill-

I don't believe you'd get in trouble until you make tons of money with the item, then they can sue you if they've filed a trademark-

My oldest daughter, BBM, went to Berklee College of music in Boston, n was part of the Tri-County Symphony for years specializing in several wood-winds. The younger, MB, was into Percussion instruments and bells, n was co-drum major in high-school band, more into pop.
(I'm a renegade original- will listen to anything)

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

To the Classical Music lover concerts are a rather sacred experience and I think that is true of most people who attend classical concerts on a regular basis---Or did, in the past, and one never sees someone taking pictures...Frankly, it IS a distrazction and not just in 'the quiet passages'...You can hear that clicking sound no matter when....Classical Musicians and concert performers and audiences have very sensitive ears and sensibilities, too...It's like being "In Church", you know? And praying or meditating....the marriage of the music and the performer are well...Everything! The experience is a pure one unlike many other kinds of concerts. Maybe they assume people will know that, though I think if it were me, I would have the "no pictures, etc" printed everywhere possible, and I would have them make an announcement over the PA System, as they do in most theatres these days regarding all electronic devices, including the turning off of the dreaded cell phone, so there is no surprise about it....
In all the years I had been going to concerts---and I began going at a very young age---pictures were never ever taken...it just wasn't ever done. And in more recent times there has always been an annoncement in the theatres and or concert halls I have been to....Suprising that there wasn't one as I said before.
Have you considered one of those camrera's that make no sound at all? They use them on Movie Sets a lot because of the silent quality...I only suggest it if you plan to take pictures again and don't want to disturb with that clicking sound...!
Oh, and BTW: How was the music and this musician?

And Michele sent me tonight Mike...!

Midori said...

Hi from Michele`s!

Weird that pictures weren`t allowed but I can see OLOTH`s point as well!

Have a good weekend!

Just a trumpet player said...

Looks like we're playing tag...

As professional musician, I can tell you that the clicking sound can be distracting... for the concertgoers. Flashes are an other story.

But for a musician to forbide pictures taking ? That's a bit to diva like for me...

Michele sent me ; have a great weekend (hopefully, you'll feel better) !

utenzi said...

Michele sent me, Mike.

For a handheld pic in a dark room that's a great shot. I had no idea how good until I looked at the larger version. I can even read the logo on the piano.

The Canon dSLRs are nice. I'd buy the Rebel also if I was willing to do the prism route again. I've gotten too used to using the screen on the back for monitoring the pic tho.

Carmi said...

I'm with you: better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Since I bleed journalist's blood as well, I can absolutely confirm that this has helped me comfortably beat deadlines far more often than politely waiting my turn and asking for stuff in advance.

From the composition of the photo, it looks like you were far enough away from him that shutter noise wouldn't have been an issue. And Canon SLRs are known for being somewhat quieter than average.

I think his people were simply flexing their muscles. It was their one time to shine, so they played the part. In that respect, they're like so many others who have gone before them. Some things never change.