I’m pretty bummed out right now. Earlier this week I was checking out upcoming.org for something good to shoot on Saturday night and I came across an entry for the Bohemian Carnival which is held monthly at DNA Lounge. I checked out a few photos online and then sent the Carnival an email requesting approval to photograph their show.
I received an email back from someone named Boenobo the Klown telling me that I could feel free to “shoot away” on Saturday night. So I was pretty excited to shoot this carnival. I love taking photographs of art. I think that photography, and especially digital photography when combined with online photosharing, is a way to spread art even further than it could be otherwise. Photography is universal and the internet can make what’s shown in San Francisco on a Saturday night available in an alternate representative form the very next Sunday morning in China.
I shoot art because I appreciate it. And I want to share it with as many other people as possible. I license my photographs Creative Commons because I want to share. I want people to see my own art and the art that I interpret of others.
So I was excited to be shooting the Bohemian Carnival. I took the BART over to San Franisco. Walked over from the BART to the DNA Lounge on one of the coldest nights of the year. Paid my $15 to get in. I was looking forward to meeting Boenobo. And I started shooting as the show began at 10:00 p.m. I shoot without flash so as not to disturb when I shoot events. I fired off a bunch of shots as the show opened, but then about 20 minutes into the show this prick from the carnival approaches me.
Asshole: Who are you?
Me: “I’m Thomas Hawk.”
Asshole: “Who are you with?”
Me: “Umm… just myself. I have a blog.”
Asshole: “You can’t take pictures in here.”
Me: “Oh, I cleared that ahead of time with Boenobo. He told me I could shoot.”
Asshole: “I don’t care. You’re not one of *our* photographers.”
Me: Umm.. yeah I know. I requested permission to take photos from you guys and Boenobo gave me approval.
Asshole: “What don’t you understand about what I’m telling you? You’re going to need to put that camera away.”
Me: Ok, man, no problem. (putting my camera down around my neck).
Asshole: Getting close to my face as his spit hits my face. “You’re not hearing me. You can’t have that camera in here.”
Me: “No, problem. I won’t take any more photos.”
Asshole: “You can’t have it in here.”
Me: “Where do you want me to put it? I took BART over here.”
Asshole: “Then you are going to have to leave aren’t you.”
Me: “Yeah, sure, ok.”
So much for getting approval to shoot something ahead of time.
I guess what bothers me about this is that this guy was such a prick and wouldn’t even try to talk to Boenobo who had given me permission to shoot. But what also bothers me is this proprietary attitude with the art. What’s wrong with someone who is not one of *their* photographers shooting the show? How does it hurt them if people see photographs of their show? If anything it builds publicity for more people to come see them in the future. I was planning on writing up a nice blog post about the show if I enjoyed it and submitting a photo to San Francisco Magazine (I mentioned this to Boenobo as well). If anything this would only serve to build goodwill and make more people aware of their show.
Instead I wasted $15 ($20 if you count the BART fare) and got treated badly by one of the pricks who felt he was in charge of this Bohemian carnival.
It’s funny. By way of contrast earlier this week I shot the Oakland All Stars down at Porky’s Pizza Palace down in San Leandro. Who are the Oakland All Stars? They are the nicest bunch of 65+ year olds who play banjo every Thursday night down at Porky’s Pizza Palace. It’s actually great fun. 12 banjos strumming together to all these old timey songs. They do a line dance thing and really have fun with it. To me their art is much better than the pretentious Bohemian Carnival. They sing from the heart. They have their fans and their groupies (mostly women over age 70), but they invited me in last Thursday night to hang with them and played their darndest as I shot them for an hour and a half during their show. I had a couple of beers, a pizza pie. It was great. I gave out a few cards to some of the fans. Told them where they could find the photos online (I’m not publishing them until SF Magazine does next month).
The All Stars were the exact opposite of the Bohemian Carnival. They are in my mind the better artists of the two.
It wouldn’t have bothered me if the Bohemian Carnival had told me no in advance about the photography thing. I then could have chosen to not go or to go without my camera. But to give approval and then throw me out kind of sucks. Needless to say, I won’t be going back anytime soon. I may have more shots of their carnival up later or maybe not. I’m not sure yet. But hey, at least they got my $15.
Update: I do want to make it clear that my getting thrown out of the DNA Lounge had nothing to do with DNA Lounge or their staff or personnel. DNA Lounge actually has a very open policy towards photography at their venue and allows photography unless an act restricts it. This is a very progressive policy for any club and I commend them for allowing photography at their venue. I would definitely go back to DNA Lounge in the future and look forward to seeing many other shows and acts there, just not the Bohemian Carnival. The harassment came from the Bohemian Carnival not DNA Lounge. Below is a comment that the owner of DNA Lounge left on my write up on this situation over at Flickr:
“Hi, I’m the owner of DNA Lounge, and I’d like to apologize for how you were treated. That’s fucked up in several different ways…
First of all, whichever clown you were talking to doesn’t work for me, and had no authority here of any kind. If he wasn’t wearing a “DNA Lounge Staff” t-shirt, he has no business telling you what to do.
Second, if anyone who did work here was that rude to a customer, for any reason, they wouldn’t be working here for long.
Third, there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t have been allowed to take pictures that night.
We do always leave the photo policy up to the promoters; sometimes they ask for no photos, or for pre-approved photographers only. (This doesn’t happen often, and usually only with larger touring bands.) So if that’s the promoters’ policy, then we will enforce it for them, and the staff at the door would have told you before you entered (or, if you’d been pre-approved, they’d have gotten you a photo pass.)
However, Bohemian Carnival has no such policy! They have never asked us for any restriction on photography, and in fact, that party is usually full of cameras!
Fourth, you certainly would have gotten your money back if you had talked to anyone who actually worked here, instead of whichever clown was hassling you. I’d be happy to refund your money and/or put you on the guest list the next time you feel like coming down to a DNA event; just email me.
Again, I’m sorry you had to go through that. We’re trying to figure out who it was who was hassling you to make sure that sort of thing ne
ver happens again, but since he’s not actually an employee, we haven’t figured that out yet…”