Concert Photography: Drunk vs. Sober

Drunk at a show – 2010

There used to be a show almost every week, sometimes on both Fridays and Saturday nights. Ritualistically, I’d meet my friends outside the venue, smoke some pot, go inside and get started on drinks. I’d usually drink rum and coke and do a shot of something every so often. I have always been a lightweight, so I would catch a buzz quickly. The first band would start playing, and most of the time I was right there, drink in one hand and camera in the other. I would go take smoke breaks in between bands, getting more stoned and having more drinks. The photos would get a little sloppier and so would I. But there I was, right there by the stage, boldly snapping picture after picture, laughing with my friends, and the night might possibly end with me having a bit too much to drink and getting the spins. Sometimes I would look at the pictures the next day and the last set would have me wondering what I was even aiming for.

This behavior wasn’t good for me on a personal level, that’s for sure. After looking inward, I realized I drank this way at shows to help me cope with being around a lot of people. I’m an introvert with an aloof demeanor, I only like to talk if I have something to say, my face can look grouchy if I’m not showing any emotion, and I often amuse myself by thinking and observing. The thing I get most from people is they think I am angry, stuck up, or I don’t like them. Knowing that people misinterpret my personality, I felt it was more desirable for others if I offer the tipsy version of myself to compensate with added friendliness. Although everything was a humorous drunken blur, I’m pretty sure I still failed at being social because I wasn’t being my true self. But this is on a personal level.

Let’s discuss the difference between the drunk me and the sober me when it comes to taking pictures at shows.

One of the biggest differences is how I feel when I am taking the pictures. When I was drinking, I would stand my ass up there by the stage, take a few hundred pictures all night long of all the bands and a lot of the people socializing and moshing. My intention was to always capture these experiences as they happened and preserve them in a way that will tell the same story to everyone who looks at the pictures, whether or not they were even there. I think I did well at doing so. But after I sobered up, this changed. I hate to be in the spotlight and always felt I was hiding behind my camera, but being sober, it feels like I’m not hiding at all. If anything, I feel like I am too much in the center of everything. If I’m photographing anyone who I am not familiar with, I just feel like an intrusive jerk, flashing my flash in their faces. This makes me feel so awkward that photographing bands I don’t know in venues I am not familiar with is almost a no. “Let’s let this towns local metal photographer photograph this.”, I’ll say to myself. And then I feel bad if there is no other metal photographer and a good experience went undocumented.

Another thing I notice that drunk me did was I used to try to take pictures of all the bands, even if they weren’t my cup of tea. Even if they sucked. Sorry, but some bands suck, and that’s a fact. But I would be the nice guy and take a shit ton of pictures of all the bands and support the scene. Sober me isn’t so generous. Sober me knows I don’t owe anything to everybody, so I am more inclined to photograph my friends bands or other bands I like. A great stage presence definitely catches my interest. But I no longer feel obligated to provide something to everyone, especially not knowing if my efforts are even appreciated.

Drunk me used to spill drinks all over myself and my camera, moshing around and rubbing all over sweaty bodies. Sober me kind of just stands there, not pushing my way up to the stage, not smashing myself up against people because I don’t like touching strangers and I also don’t mosh anymore. If I can get a clear shot of the band without getting in peoples way, then cool.

If there’s any other differences worth mentioning, I can’t think of them now. That’s probably because it will be a year in March since the last time I went to a show. I am sure when shows start up again, I’ll probably be even more socially awkward then I have ever been. I don’t know how that will affect the way I take pictures. I’ll have to start with my friends who i have been photographing for over ten years and then go from there. But one thing I know is I would rather be socially awkward than spend too much money on drinks, act too friendly, and get hangovers.

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