Bohemian Carnvial, What a Bunch of Pretentious Pricks

Bohemian CarnivalBohemian Carnival Hosted on Zooomr

I’m pretty bummed out right now. Earlier this week I was checking out 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…”

29 Replies to “Bohemian Carnvial, What a Bunch of Pretentious Pricks”

  1. Good on you Thomas, unfortunatly this kind of pretentiousness is not limited to art events.

    It seems to me there are people with there own agenda to serve or there own ego to message all over and it’s a shame that you happened to run into one of them on this occasion, especially as they didn’t even have the common decency to refund you.

    I for 1 would never have heard of the “Bohemian Carnival” before and now hope I never hear of them again. Let them disappear into obscurity, with that kind of attitude that’s all they deserve.

  2. Hi Thomas,

    Sad to hear so. But this is indeed a typical problem with people with absolutely no preparation given any type of position of “authority”.

    Basically you are the important guy because you watch the door, the club, etc.

    I usually just turn around and laugh as they are not over me 🙂

  3. Sorry to hear about the bad experience, Thomas. You’ve got my support. Although you lost $20 and a few hours of your time, they lost a lot more than you did.

    The vindictive side of me says I hope they sweat bullets over it 🙂

  4. The Bohemians were afraid of losing their IP? Does anyone else see the extreme irony in this? You should have told the asshole about our San Francisco “Bohemian” values. Great story Thomas. From now on, when I get permission to shoot a show I’ll be sure to at least bring the lettter.

  5. What I hate is one set of stated a rules and another set for those who follow them. I took my daughter to see the Velveteen Rabbit in SF and the show MC clearly stated no FLASH photography. Ok no problem. About half way through the first act where I was only taking a occasional snaps an usher came over and told me I wasn’t allowed to take photo’s. I said wait a sec the MC clearly stated no flash photography, and I’m not using flash. She simple insisted that it was not allowed. I would have made a big stink over how totally unacceptable that was compared to the stated rules, I couldn’t get into it with my 3 year old in tow. It was at the Yerba Buena center which generally has a poor attitude toward photographers anyway so I guess we won’t be back next year. All I can think of is somebody complained about the occasional click from the SLR, but with all the ambient nose from kids being kids I hardly think that should have mattered.
    dumb. Tell me the rules and I’ll play by them but don’t treat me as a second class citizen for following them.

  6. Very good story. That is really sad to be treated that way. I agree that allowing people to take photos only helps their cause. Word of mouth is the best advertisement. It may be a good idea to take the email approval letter with you on your next shoot.


  7. Boenobo the klown here, co-producer of Bohemian Carnival. having only heard about this incident second hand, i’m looking into what happened. all i witnessed was one of our dancers coming into the green room in a rage because, she said, there was a photographer all over her – whether that meant her space or her person is irrelevant – it’s relative, she was mighty pissed.

    we’ll have an explanation/apology coming your way soon. in the meantime, while i appreciate the fact that you felt abused — and to address some of the reactions so far to your story — we’re not ‘a bunch of pretentious pricks;’ from what i gather, it was one or two people involved on our side.

    also, Scott, i don’t lie and i’m a clown; so you can attempt to F me if you’d like but i’ll tell anyone who asks. moral of this paragraph’s story: beware the reactionary lynchings, my friends. while i appreciate the fact that you’re supportive of Thomas, none of you were there and none of you know the actual dynamics from both sides — until you do, you’d all sound much more respectable if you reserved judgment until you were fully informed.

    our side coming soon.

  8. Boenobo.

    I never touched anyone.

    I was not “all over” anyone.

    The format of the carnival was such, as you know, that people are right on the edge of the standing room area around the area where the performance is. Essentially your stage is at the same level as where people are standing and that’s where I was shooting from. I crossed no lines or barriers and I wasn’t standing in anyplace that any other patron were not. I just happened to have a camera with me. It’s kind of difficult by the way to touch someone or be in their personal space when they are swinging hoola hoops around.

    Irrespective — if one of your dancers did not want to be photographed or thought I was too close to her when photographing her all she or anyone else would have to say is don’t take my photo. I’d respect that. I want everyone to have a good time.

    To me that argument is convenient spin after the fact to try to justify your groups bad behavior.

    I shoot dozens of events. Much higer profile events than your carnival. I’ve shot the Killers and the Strokes and the Pussycat Dolls, the Circus Caballero, and many, many other performances and never has anyone objected to my photography at their show. Instead they usually say thank you and appreciate my giving them the photos afterwards.

    I sent you my flickr url prior to the event so that you could see my style of photography to make sure it was conducive with your performance.

    Bottom line is I was treated badly, ripped off $15, and kicked out — wasting about 4 hours of my time.

    I wasn’t told by the guy who kicked me out that I was “in someone’s space,” by the way, or that anyone was upset. He told me that I wasn’t one of *your* photographers and that only *your* photographers were allowed to shoot the show.

    It’s a pretty small show. It wouldn’t have been difficult for this asshole to talk to you to verify my claim that I’d gotten approval. I didn’t make your name up out of thin air. And it certainly wouldn’t have been too much to let me stay and watch the show if I said I wouldn’t shoot anymore.

    I came to your show hoping to enjoy the evening and possibly take some photos to help promote your efforts more publicly — but after being treated that way I’ll be sure to instead make it a point to suggest to people and other photographer friends of mine in the City that they shouldn’t support a fake Bohemian group manned by arbitrary pricks, which despite your claims otherwise is exactly how your group acted.

    Hopefully this story will make it to the first page Google Search results for your show so that other people, photographers especially, can be warned ahead of time and not waste their time or money in the future.

    Treating people badly, especially other artists, may work for you guys sometimes, but whether you believe in karma or not, other times what comes around goes around.

  9. Boenobo,

    Giving the usual “having only heard about this incident second hand” is typical of someone trying to act like they are considerate of both sides when what they are really saying is “that is your version of the events, we have our own”.

    The fact is that there is no reason why the asshole had to act in that manner even if he had been given instructions to do so. He was obviously instructed to ‘stop the photographer’ and if he had any brains he would have asked Thomas if he had authority to photograph. As Thomas said he did, why could he not confirm it, ie take Thomas to yourself to verify the authority. Instead he just becomes a petty tyrant and enforces his big man power. What is wrong with the asshole simply saying to Thomas “you are getting a little too close” if that is really what the concern was? (not that I believe Thomas would have been)

    Behaviour like that should not be acceptable to anyone. Everybody has the right to be treated like a person and not trash.

  10. Sooner or later people will begin to realise that, increasingly, customers cannot be treated badly or rudely without the story ending up all over the internet within hours of the event.

    More power of the bloggers!

  11. I’m a big believer in seeing both sides of the story before taking sides (as there are usually two sides to every story). After reading Boenobo’s post, however, I have pretty much made up mind. It sounds like the Boenobo is an ass which is probably why his people were asses too. That tends to be a pretty consistent rule in life.

    The Carnival initially sounded like a fun thing to do next year. I will NOT ever go to this now. Hopefully if enough people boycott them, they won’t be able to continue in business. Only then will Boenob realize what a BooBoo it is to be an ass.

    Thomas, if it were me, I’d take them to small claims court just to teach them a lesson. Asses tend not to care about right and wrong or lying and telling the truth. Their heart will never change, but if they can be taught a lesson a few times, then their behavior changes at least.

  12. While I’m certainly no Google expert I guess the usage of the “p-word” may well take this post off the search-hits unfortunately.

    While I think you’re right Thomas, I think there are other strong ways to say it without cursing.

  13. Thomas I have been following your work and I enjoy your pictures very much, I wanted to share a similar story with you. I shot a recent concert in Fort Lauderdale for Keller Williams and his record label with a photo pass fromt he record label, what I ran into was not a staff problem they were great, i t was actually another photogra[her shooting the show without a photo pass. This chick would follow me around from all of my vantage points after I was done, I finally got down to the stage and took out my 15mm 2.8 and realized that I had a speaker in front of me, I asked her nicely if I could grab some shots from her position, she said no, I told had a pass from the record label and just wanted a few shots she said ” I don’t give a F— what you have and from whom. I was like whoa!! Chill, I moved on from there. Anyways here are my shots
    If you ever make it down to South FLorida, look me up. I will take you out in the Everglades on an airboat for the most amazing shots.

    Matt Harris

  14. You have pro gear, reality is that more and more places allow people to bring their point and shoot cameras into places they were prohibited before. Pro gear remains prohibited.

    All you photographers using pro gear need to have some tact, there are people who work for a living doing what you do for fun, have some respect for them.

    When someone tells you no, listen instead of calling them assholes on your blog.

  15. I’ve been to the Bohemian Carnival and am a frequenter of the DNA Lounge in general. A lot of people who go there go there a lot. Boenobo gave his apology and while I don’t know him there is no reason for him not to be sincere if he is the one who initially gave you the go ahead. If one of his cohort’s came up to and wouldn’t give you the time of day or even ask Boenobo that’s his problem and Boenobo should work on getting you your money back. If this whole thing was because of a performer getting angry it may not have even been you that she was talking about, but the performer’s can be kinda snotty too sadly from experience with asshole’s (and some photographers lack tact when trying to get a great shot, myself included, without realizing they are being rude). There are a lot of scantily clad ladies as part of the acts that go on there and they get hassled by tourists or people who don’t try to fit in to the night. Its circus themed in general and almost everyone dresses up for the occasion so its easy to spot an outsider. Unfortunately the muscle doesn’t like to see reason, so if you have a girl huffing off feeling like she was being hassled he’s not going to see reason because his whole life consists of people giving him excuses for their behavior and him being paid to remove the problem so that the majority can go on having fun. Sadly, they don’t always get all the memo’s.

    I think mainly what I’m getting at is Blog’s let people rant all they want and feel empowered by their readers even after an apology has been made. The Bohemian Carnival night is a lot of fun, the people are cool and don’t make that much money bringing us entertainment. Its more than one circus troupe that comes to perform at these nights so there’s a lot of subgroups involved as well, not to mention the DNA lounge staff on top of that. Its a lot of breaks in the chain. The person who kicked you out should be held responsible and not the whole group.

  16. I’m really sorry to hear that you were treated in such a way- it’s shameful and someone should be held accountable: someone being the ONE person who confronted you- not DNA, not Boenobo, not the dozens of performers who were there that night. People need to take responsiblity for their own actions. What a mistake to pin responsibility for this event on everyone in the carnival that night and punish/slander those who are innocent. I hope there is such a thing as karma.

  17. Ian, Boenobo contacted me and said he was going to look into it and asked me for information on the person that threw me out but I have not heard from him since then.

  18. “The person who kicked you out should be held responsible and not the whole group.”

    I don’t buy that for a second. Other visitors are responsible for their own actions, the event staff are part of the event as much as the performers and the person in charge.

    If a cashier rips you off, do you complain to the cashier? Of course not…you go to the management.

    The staff is part of the organization and represents them to the public.

  19. Hi. I am a performer in the carnival and it really is unfortunate that you had and experience with one person who was acting weird like that. However, that does not mean you should necessarily go around overgeneralizing and saying mean things about everyone involved with the carnival. That guy and that particular incident does not at all stand for all of us and how we actually are. Too bad sometimes one rude person can sour an experience sometimes. We all know what that’s like. That guy should be repremanded for treating a photographer like that. None of the rest of us even knew about this unpleasant experience, actually- I happen to know almost ALL the other artists quite well and I could give you a very different report on what it’s like to bee in the family…

  20. …but I hope that whoever you were talking about doesn’t treat our guests like that ever again. Maybe I will form a welcoming committee for the new show goers and potential collaborators to make sure they are welcomed warmly into the experience.
    We’ll burn some sage.
    And I hope next time you enter a labrynth
    the splendid gardens will await you – I’m sending out my gardener to go weed out the trolls right now! Good to know you saw one. We will keep an eye out and put up a sign -No Trolls Allowed! And chain your monsters to the bike lock, everybody! (Unless they are going into he show- come see me)

  21. Hello Thomas,
    Don’t feel bad I have experienced the asshole to. I had the same exact experience with Bohemian Carnival at the DNA. Im glad you wrote about it. The asshole of this story are Vau de Vire Society.
    Boenobo is the fall guy.

  22. I have been the the Bohemian Carnivale at the DNA lounge several times, and it is astounding and fabulous high quality creative entertainment.

    I empathize with your frustration at being treated that way, Thomas, but not accepting Boenobo’s apology and slandering him and the rest of the artists is uncalled for and ungracious. Boenobo was professional in his response – his job is to find out all sides of the conflict so he can take appropriate steps within his authority, not to be reactionary or emotional about it. I think the fact that he publicly apologized to you was a big win for you, and if you want to know more about his follow-up you should call him, not call him names. The fact that other artists from the group wrote you kind words means that your story struck a chord and must be all the talk around that community, so I’m sure steps of some kind are being taken within their group to prevent further mishaps. Your continued complaints and lack of foregiveness after all that feedback you received from them seem misguided. In addition, if you (or any of your readers) are refusing to see this show based on your poor experience, that is a great loss for them — they are missing out on a dynamic artistic performance.

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