Surviving in the music world is far from easy, even compared to photography. Now combine the two and what do you get? Music photography, which may sound glamorous, but really, is more along the lines of treacherous.
With a background in music before transitioning to photo, I was determined to uncover the most vile experiences photographers have endured while shooting shows. So, as someone who’s experienced my fair share of late-night tent debauchery, I thought it best to speak with those who attempt to work the pit without being covered in molly. I gained access to a private Facebook group for professional EDM photographers, and asked them to share their most heinous experiences.
Now listen up—promoters, venues, artists. Next time you’re looking to hire a photographer, value their time, their art, and respect both industries. Because I can bet most of this isn’t included in their contracts.
Names have been removed, and quotes have been edited for clarity. We’ll begin with a detailed, first-hand account from a colleague:
“I was shooting a local club show for the artist [artist name]. It was in McAllen, TX at this place called the Ice House that’s closed now. At the beginning of the night we had a kid overdose on Molly, like a really bad overdose, to the point where a medical team had to come get him. He was like slobbering at the mouth. I already knew that night was going to be bad—when a kid does that that early it’s like, ‘oh shit.’
So what happened was the promoter oversold tickets and it was so packed to the point that the crowd was overflowing onto the stage. I was literally trapped on stage with the artist. We couldn’t leave, we couldn’t get out, we couldn’t get fresh air, nothing. It was even packed behind the stage, and there was nowhere for anyone to go. I freaked out because that’s not just dangerous for the artist, but myself, and like, where am I even supposed to keep my stuff? And it was so hot I could barely breathe. I got into a huge fight with my client, basically saying I’m going to call the Fire Marshall, because I’m not going to work under these conditions and neither should your artist, of all people. And he just kind of blew me off.”
Here’s what Facebook had to say:
“A friend of mine got kicked in the face by [artist name] while shooting from the pit.”
“I was standing on the barrier at the Hardstyle stage at Beyond Wonderland, and some dude headbanged/butted me off the barrier. Laid my ass out in the pit.”
“I’m being fooled by the manager of one of the most famous artists at the moment.”
“I had a full bottle of water thrown on my cam….Security trying to fight the DJ in the green room…DJ punching a fan…Cops taking everyone off the bus and putting us in handcuffs….saving someone’s life cause they did too many drugs. Lol, it goes on…”
“I had someone try and rip my gear off my back and steal it. Haha, that was a fun fight.”
“Once upon a three times ago, I was shooting some DJs up high and low. Production was on point as the DJ gave a show…then the lasers busted in, blinding me and burning sensors instantly! Two 7Ds and a 5D MKIII.”
“I got my camera covered in cake inside and out, and slipped in cake and snapped a speed lite right off my camera.”
“*Stressed 200 times*: Don’t get in front of the DJ to shoot. *Hours later*: Hey, how come you didn’t get any pics from the front of the DJ????”
“An artist was balling their eyes out 10 minutes before they went on. I had to hug them and say ‘don’t worry, it gets better.’ It was extremely awkward because I’ve never met them in person.”
“In an Italian club when I tell people I don’t shoot them, they split on me, rip off my hair, and insult in very various ways.. Even the other days at home on Facebook ???? once they even broke a shirt. ????” [sic]
“Not EDM, but when I was shooting for [artist name] he called me out on the mic and told me to make sure I got photos of ‘all Dese beeyootiful chicas.'”
“At a festival in Bali last year, one of the sponsors had built a custom made entrance. Five mins before the event, the local police wanted to move their truck underneath it. It didn’t fit…the whole entrance collapsed. Then, from out of the blue, a swarm of Indonesians came and all picked up a piece. Two mins later, it was as if the entrance had never been there.”
“At Escape From Wonderland in 2012 or 2013 (I think?), [artist name] called all the girls to the stage and one of them motor-boated my camera so it got all wet and sweaty.”
“I got punched in the face while working a gig in Portland, which led to a bar fight. Other photographers popping their flash right in my eyes. Getting literally thrown off stage because new security didn’t know I was the photographer for the night. People throwing color packets at my—at the time—new 70-200mm 2.8.”
“I won’t name artists, but let’s just say many have shaken a bottle of champagne and popped it directly into my face/camera and then moved to the crowd. One of them even had the cork hit me in the eye???? Not to mention, I am a girl and tiny. I have to crawl and sucker punch people to get in front with no pits to get my shots. Those who know me from SF, I used to climb all over my residency to get my shots.”
“I’ve told the story here before, but it’s my favorite horror: Camera held high over my head in the pit. I was looking at my flip screen for the shot. A very round girl in a tutu licked my face and told me I was pretty. I felt dirty just being near her. So at that point I ran away. I’m pretty sure she was 17.”
“Last year in Meo SW (Portugal) [artist name] cake trow gone bad!
All over my fckn face! xD
Not to mention it was for some twin girls! xD” [sic]
“I’d love to recount what happened shooting one time at the Playboy mansion with a very famous rapper, and then with the #1 DJ in the world at the time, but I signed an NDA.”
Do you have a horrific photography story you’d like to share? E-mail us or tell us in the comments!