Photo Envy of the Week

Capturing Coachella

I’ve always envied concert photographers: Not only do they go to shows for free, but they get the best seats. So when I realized my photographer boyfriend wasn’t coming to Coachella with me, and therefore his photo pass was up for grabs, I jumped at the chance to see how the other half lives. After years of festival frustration made up of heat and crowds and distance from the stage, I’d finally have the Coachella experience I’d always wanted.

Or so I thought. As it turns out, the other half doesn’t live quite as glamorously as I’d thought. The pit between the stage and the barrier is a strange place. For starters, it’s mostly men. And those men have really big cameras with even bigger lenses. Cowering there with my $100 Canon, I felt a little like the only boy in the junior high locker room who hasn’t hit puberty.

By the time Cat Power started, though, I wasn’t worried about the size of my equipment. I was too busy maneuvering around other photographer’s heads and arms and cameras to get a good shot, all the while trying not to get in the way of anyone else’s photographs. It was even worse at Depeche Mode, where videographers were on risers in front of me. I was lucky if I could see David Gahan’s foot, much less get an in-focus photo of him doing something interesting.

It was so distracting I hardly heard the music at all. And by the time three songs had passed and I was forced back out the chute and into the field, I was exhausted from all the striving and concentrating and fighting off testosterone. Maybe Coachella is best left to the professionals: those with the newest driver’s licenses, those with VIP passes, and those with the longest lenses. Next year I think I’ll stay home and watch the DVD.

—Molly Freedenberg

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