I’m angry about this.
I’m angry because I’m a female concert photographer, and I’ve never felt unsafe at a show, even when the shows have been horrifyingly brutal, frightening to behold, and full of some scary looking people.
I’ve done photos for Blasphemy, Watain, PORTAL, eyehategod, King Parrot, and more. These shows have been wild, the audiences sometimes wilder, and never once have I felt anything but safe, wanted, and included.
And please don’t take this as some feminist SJW rant, because that isn’t what I’m talking about. I get that metal is ugly music for ugly people, I get that it isn’t supposed to be safe. Really, I do. I’m not here to PC police anyone. I also don’t like call out culture. And yet, this post is kind of a call out, so I dunno what that says either.
I’ve got some truth to lay on you, my fine friends.
I’ve shot extreme metal bands and heavy metal bands in general for about 4-5 years now. It was actually Phil Anselmo who inspired me to take photos after he told me I should, and asked me what the fuck I was afraid of. And I get that Phil can be a problematic guy for some folks. Anyways. Taking up concert photography has been my way of trying to give back to a scene that has given me a lot, especially to underground or just getting started artists. Most can’t afford photos, and like with anything, most talented voices often don’t have a ton of backing behind them. I’ve shot for some big names in metal and alternative music, and I don’t tend to get paid for it. Guest list spots and the occaisional free t-shirt don’t pay my rent, but I consider what I do to be a hobby. I pay my rent with the 9-5 and do metal journalism by night.
Now, I treasure my camera. I have two. One I saved up for for months. I used to work wiping old asses in a nursing home. Lots of dirty old butts to wipe to save up for that camera. Too many to think of. My second camera I got second hand, but I had to save up for that too. All the lenses and bags and editing software, I saved up for too. But every time a band shares a photo or artist makes it their profile picture, it’s worth it to me. I love taking pictures. I have a hard time communicating some of my deepest feelings on what heavy metal has meant to me. Photography comes close to explaining these feelings.
I’d be completely devastated if the performer I was shooting for took a kick at my camera. I wouldn’t even be that bummed out about my face getting fucked up, the real concern would be my camera. I mean, I guess my face might end up pretty fucked up, because I wear glasses, and if I’m shooting with my fluorite 24-70mm lens, that thing is a beast and would probably break my glasses. The thought of broken glass that close to my eyeballs is somewhat disconcerting as well.
I’ve had audience members try to grab my camera when I’m shooting, drunken morons pull on my hair or grab my vest, and I’ve even had someone scream in my face because I was trying to shoot for Psychic TV at a festival – but I’ve never had a performer be anything other than an onstage ham or just your average dude.
What Josh Homme did was wrong. And make no mistake, he did that on purpose.
Drunken buffoonery or not, that woman could have been seriously injured.
And I think what’s even more disappointing is how the incident was handled afterwards – Chelsea Lauren is no crumb-bum with an iphone, she isn’t a fan (and it wouldn’t matter either way if she was either or both of these things), and this isn’t her first rodeo at a rock show. Reading statements about her after the fact, where fans of Queens of the Stone Age attempt to discredit her character and flimsily defend the actions of Josh is honestly super gross and tacky.
But, I get where they are coming from. I know what it feels like when someone you like, someone who makes the music that is a part of the soundtrack to your life ends up making a shit call and that image you had of them inside your head gets tampered with. Anyone who has been utterly moved by Burzum only to later find out that Varg is a crazed right wing survivalist with a white supremacy problem knows exactly what I’m talking about. That saying about not meeting your heroes was created for a reason. The rose colored glasses we wear when we examine stardom don’t tend to have a depth of focus that is concurrent with seeing the whole picture of someone. We tend only to see a narrow field, the one aspect of them that we fell in love with – the song they wrote, that feeling when we first listened to their seminal album, the time we got laid while a bootleg of their show was playing, etc. It’s only natural – we identify with music, and we herald the musician.
I personally am not a fan of Queens of the Stone Age. I’ve never enjoyed their music and it isn’t for a lack of trying. It just doesn’t do it for me. That said, I know people who have seen Queens six, seven, eight times, have Queens tattoos and are the definition of rabid fans and I get what it means to them and that’s fucking RAD.
I write this post in no way to shit on Josh Homme, or fans of his bands.
The fact of the matter here is, is that like with anything else, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, until someone gets hurt. And Chelsea Lauren did get hurt. The comments that have come out wondering why she continued with the show etc, have made my stomach turn. Stop it. Stop victim blaming. This woman didn’t do anything other than try to do her job or her hobby, or both.
The narrative that creates her into some money grubbing scum sucker can’t coexist with the narrative that photographers are typically engaged in working with a largely thankless industry. Everyone loves the finished work, but has little respect for the process.
The same audience members who have grabbed me and screamed at me, and shouted down Chelsea Lauren are the same ones who will find all our pictures on instagram and like them, share them, but rarely ever wonder where those images come from, the countless hours that go into making them for you. They come from doing what we do. Shame on anyone who took a dump on Chelsea Lauren. Absolutely shame on you.
And to Josh Homme. Man. You need help. I’m angry at you. I’m angry at you because I don’t like your music and because you’ve made me feel unsafe to be at a show, and I wasn’t even AT this one. And that sucks big balls, my guy. Your original “apology” where you claim to be “lost in performance” sucks my big balls too. It’s shitty and awful and you know that.
The second apology isn’t much better either. You don’t sound sorry that you did it, you sound sorry that you got caught and there’s a big difference.
But from someone on the outside looking in, this isn’t the first time you’ve gone through this. We all know it. And if calling the audience “retards” and making fun of Muse is anything else to go on from the other night, sounds like you need to lay off the sauce, or the substances, or get yourself some counselling. Or fuck it, go for a hat trick and do all three.
You say in your apology that rock is supposed to bring people up, to get them psyched, and I don’t know many people who get hyped on being called retards. Maybe Gwar fans. Maybe.
It’s 2017, and you probably shouldn’t be saying that anyways, but I’m not here to PC-police your speech. But come on dude, what the hell? Use your brain.
I think beyond apologizing you need to pull out the old checkbook and pay that young ladies medical costs and make sure than camera is in good working order.
And even further still, you need to understand you aren’t setting a very good example for people in the industry. Apologies mean fuck all without action to them.
Yeah, yeah, I get it, rock and roll and freedom of speech and whatever else, but seriously what the fuck people. Is it so hard to just be a goddamn decent person? Say sorry when you hurt someone, make up for it. Don’t just make it about you. Josh Homme isn’t the victim, and the amount of people coming to his defense is gross.
And no, I don’t side with the feminists either. This isn’t a gender thing. This wasn’t some wicked member of the “patriarchy” being a shitlord. This was a drunken asshole being an asshole, and honestly, you know what? I’m over people who are assholes. It’s not funny or cute or interesting even. Being nice is rare, it’s so rare that it’s actually almost kvlt.
So how about instead of being prick jobs, we go back to picking each other up when we fall down, and maybe learning to handle our booze a bit better, because damn, dude, sounds like you’ve got some serious issues with the sauce.
Header image credit goes to Chelsea Lauren, an image of Josh Homme taken by her, just before she was booted in the face.
You can find Robin on twitter cleaning her lenses and not listening to QOTSA.