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De La Soul has always been on my top 10 favorite groups, ever since my freshman year of college, when my friend Gloria from the South Bronx played 3 Feet High and Rising for me. I was instantly won over by the group’s wit, intensity, clever wordplay, and creativity. Chuck D and Public Enemy taught me about life, Grandmaster Flash taught me about New York City, and De La Soul taught me about music—-I dug into their deep array of samples and worked my way backward. So when I heard the band would be “Celebrating 25 Years of De La Soul” this past Saturday at the Howard Theatre, of course, I wanted to add one of my favorite bands to my photo portfolio, and got the necessary credentials from the band’s management and the venue.
How was Saturday’s show? The crowd was amazing. The guys hit the stage 20 minutes late, but they were on fire.
And then, just before the second song, Trugoy called me out from the stage via his mic. “I see we have a couple of photographers here—-so why don’t you put the stuff away and join the rest of us,” he said to me and the man next to me, who was also taking photos, but without formal credentials. I mouthed that I was just doing my job, motioned to my photo pass, and held up three fingers. (At some concerts, photographers only shoot the first three songs.) His response? “Yeah honey, I know you got a photo pass.”
The band—-or, at least, its management—-knew that at least one photographer was covering the show; I’d cleared it well in advance. Perhaps the band felt two photographers in an audience was a major distraction. But then, why wouldn’t he address the multitudes of cell phones up in the air taking photos and video all concert long? And why weren’t we photographers asked to shoot somewhere away from the stage, like at the soundboard—-a relatively common request—-to avoid being a distraction? Perhaps the band doesn’t like to have live photos taken. But then, why issue formal photo credentials at all? De La Soul’s management didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
Many bands don’t allow any photographers at all, and many require photographers to shoot from the soundboard to focus all their attention on the show. That’s completely fine. Other bands I’ve photographed aren’t crazy about getting their photos taken in live settings, but they adhere to the “first three songs” rule because they are professionals and know that press is a necessary part of their line of work. But bands, management, and venues should come to a decision about this well before photo credentials are promised or distributed.
At any rate, my photos from the show are in the gallery.