One year ago tomorrow (August 1), I went to a concert that changed my life. I had 4th row seats to John Mayer’s show at Smirnoff here in Dallas. Stop laughing. I’ll wait until you finish the Wonderland joke. It was nothing out of the ordinary, on the surface. I’ve been a fan of John’s for years, so I’d been to more than a few shows at that point and taken more than a few photos. But there were a few pieces that fell perfectly into place that night which made it a “night that changed my life” kind of night.
First, these were my best seats to date. For some reason the Ticketmaster gods saw fit to get me pretty close that evening. Second, I was alone. I go to concerts by myself all the time. Truth be told, I kind of prefer going alone. I don’t like talking to people during concerts, so being alone solves that problem handily. I always see friends there, but I typically sit alone once the show starts. And then of course, there’s the camera. I am so busy taking pictures that I am a terrible concert buddy. Lately I’ve been trying to put the camera down and enjoy the shows more, but I see it in a completely different way through the lens. A better way. Anyway. THIRD. Third, and most importantly, it was hot. Fry an egg on the sidewalk hot. Sweat just lifting your drink hot. Take off your clothes hot. And that’s what John did. He came out all hello Dallas!, song number one, sans shirt. If you’ve been in Texas in the dead of summer, you can’t really blame the guy. So to recap: I have awesome seats, I’m alone with no distractions, and the star has just walked onstage without a shirt. And he’s done some sit ups.
Back to the story – it was a great show, stellar set, lots of fun banter and surprises (bonus points for mentioning Oak Cliff and Stevie Ray Vaughn in the same breath) and then it ended. Some video clips (apologies for audio) here, here and here. I put away my camera and headed home to download my photos. I have to edit my photos as soon as I get to my computer – it’s like having unopened Christmas presents at 10am on Christmas morning. I cannot possibly go to bed until I see what’s in there. I start pulling them up and was surprised at how many keepers I was finding. I used my point and shoot S3 IS, not the Rebel, so you just never know. I finish editing them, load them up to my Flickr page and head to bed.
About 2 weeks later I’m sitting at work when I get an email – that I ALMOST DELETED – because I thought it was spam. This is the email, verbatim:
“This is [name withheld] from Rolling Stone Magazine. We are interested seeing more photos of yours from John Mayer at Smirnoff set. We are under a bit of a deadline.”
And I promptly turned around to look at no one, because I was alone in my office, and said out loud “no way.” Then louder, “no WAY.” Then with expletives, “NO %$&*ing WAY!” Then just incoherent howler monkey screeching up and down the halls. I couldn’t even breathe. But I finally collected myself and replied coolly, “oh yes, I’m at the office now but I can get you those this evening when I get home.” And then a little desperately, “would that work for you?” But she said it was fine. I send them about 100 or so that night and then … crickets. Tumbleweed. Nothing. And I’m all, “well, there you go. Shouldn’t have gotten myself so worked up. Of course they don’t want them, what was I thinking.” And I sort of forgot about it, but secretly it was still there in a dark little corner of my heart right where I keep the number of the guy I met that night who said he would call but never did. You try to pretend like it doesn’t bother you, but it does. And life went on. But then like a ninja, the girl reappears out of nowhere and hits me with “we like this one and this one. Should be in the next issue.” Oh ok – but what about… can we… should I… can we hug? It was all so fast and literally within a week, I was standing in a Barnes & Noble once again yipping like a damned zoo animal as I opened up Issue number 1060 and saw right there in Random Notes, right next to the Jonas Brothers (ok, can’t win ‘em all) but on the same page as OBAMA! was MY picture! Mine, my finger clicked the button and took it and I sat in my pjs fixing the color and contrast and now it’s on newsstands all over the country! Sidenote – when we were in Germany 2 weeks later, IT WAS THERE! Meine güte!
And that’s the story. I was not taking photos for any kind of compensation at that time. Just doing it for fun, which is still the capacity in which I take concert photos. I do not ask for photo passes. I buy tickets for shows I want to see and if I happen to get some nice shots, well that’s great. I’m not sure I’d be interested in photographing people whose music doesn’t move me, but maybe I’m wrong. A few questions I get when I share this story: no, I did not get paid. No, I did not meet John or have photo passes for this show – these were all taken from my seat. No, Rolling Stone has never asked for another picture. But I dream about it. Regularly. I also copyrighted everything from that day forward, so infer what you will from that. I’m no dummy. I understand why they picked mine over some other person’s that they’d have to pay. But I’d happily give them any photos they’d like for free. Honestly, money is not a motive for me when it comes to music and photography. They just happen to be two things I love that come together seamlessly from time to time.
Here are some photos of the magazine along with some other photos that didn’t make the issue.
Notes on the photos: I did not write the copy on the photo, the person you see in the third set of photos on the right is the supremely talented David Ryan Harris, I LOVE that there is not only a NASCAR feature on the cover, but that it features this cartoon of GWB and of course, The DUDE.