Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kennedy Center Audiences Want To Hear Music Not Camera Shutters

This past Saturday night I attended the Kennedy Center’s NPR Christmas Piano Jazz concert at the Terrace Theatre here in Washington. I have enjoyed the Jazz at the Kennedy Center shows I have attended. I had the misfortune to sit in Row W in front of the photographer who had two Nikon DSLRs on tripods and telephoto. It is curious that the Kennedy Center rules against photography does not apply to the Kennedy Center itself. Furthermore, to have the loud shutter and mirror slap noise during solo piano performances in a room of attentive listeners shows no respect for people who paid to see and listen to the performances. Every time she took pictures, it completely distracted me from enjoying the performances. The fact that she did not show restraint in shooting the performances but shot during every song at that show (Each of the two numbers by the four pianists) showed total disregard for those sitting near her.

I will acknowledge that I was told that I could be moved if I wanted, but as my wife stated to me afterwards, they shouldn’t sell any seats near the photographer. I would assume the Kennedy Center’s policy against people taking photographs isn’t merely proprietary, but also to prevent the visual and aural distractions of camera shutters and flashes. Yet the Kennedy Center impacted the enjoyment of my wife, myself and I would assume those sitting adjacent to me by the highly distracting shutter sound.

I understand the Kennedy Center wishes to document performances, but certainly they can do it less obtrusively than with a noisy DSLR (She used a Nikon although I suspect Canon DSLRs would also be similarly loud). If they insist on shooting from far away from the stage they must look into using quieter equipment or find ways to totally muffle the sound. Additionally, during a jazz performance such as this one, the photographer might be on stage using a quiet camera like a Leica. While some in the audience may be briefly visually distracted by a photographer on the side of the stage, at least no one’s attentive listening will be interrupted by a loud shutter.

One other point is that in future shows of this type, the photographer be restricted in when they take pictures of each performance. If the photographer had limited herself to simply shooting during the first of the two performances, it would have been somewhat tolerable. However, my evening of seeing and listening to wonderful solo jazz piano was spoiled by the Kennedy Center itself.

Since I posted this initially, it was suggested that whoever is shooting be required to use a sound blimp around the camera to muffle the sound. In any event, there are solutions that the Kennedy Center needs to implement

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