Occasionally, my job requires me to use my camera.
I try not to complain. I’d likely be arguing with myself, and that’s not healthy. It’s usually my idea to bring a camera along to whichever gig I’m going to. My editor frequently agrees.
So I take pictures like this:
Which are almost enough to make me draft a resignation.
Which I think I could give to my editor when he asks why.
But sometimes, if I’m very lucky, the Gods of Shutter Speed rub their hands together and throw at me something like this:
Which I’d have to be blind and twitchy to screw up even if all I had was my iPhone.
The reason I’m there at all, with my camera, is because I feel it’s important the newspaper I work for is seen to be supporting whatever show is happening in the area. My theory is if we as a regional newspaper – a thing that, in its day, had an impressive amount of sway within its little community – can’t throw its weight behind an event of any scale, can’t spread the word before the fact and splash a few photos with a review on page 24 once the curtain’s fallen and the auditorium hums with nothing other than the sound of vacuum cleaners, then I’m not doing my job properly. People don’t see it advertised, don’t read about it every Thursday in my little arts section (*cough* plug *cough*), they don’t go. They don’t go, the band plays to no one. The applause of a few hundred theatregoers tries vainly to make up for the few hundred others who leave seats vacant. The gallery is empty but for the artworks and the volunteer in the corner trying not to sneeze for fear of a deafening echo. It’s not because their show is crap. More often than not, their show is perfectly enjoyable, and if what I’ve seen is anything to go by, it’s more than that; it’s pretty bloody brilliant.
But in this scenario, whatever “it” is, it’s more likely to retreat, dejected and unloved, back into the depths of the trailer from whence it came to resume its place in a short convoy on a long highway. It tried. It did. But the risk of venturing off the beaten track – where sure enough, my little city is located – didn’t pay off. The worst part is, now, it might not tell its friends. It won’t suggest its acquaintance spectacles take a detour Down South.
If being an arts reporter for a few years has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t make someone want to go to something. Sounds simple, but it takes a lot of hundred-word briefs, high-resolution publicity images and hours spent Googling before you understand. You can bring it to their attention, but you can’t bring them to it.
Sobering, huh? Aren’t I wasting my time, you ask? Well, no. I quite like what I do. I relish the unbelievable twists of fate that enable me to do it. I’d do it anyway, probably, job or no, within this little URL. I’d spend less time arguing about the placement of a comma, probably. More time listening to the CD I’m trying to review. But it wouldn’t be the same. No, if I’m going to be one of those saps who still believes deep down journalism actually still means something, I’m going to be the kind who chooses to think it means sharing creativity. Not mine – not in this case, and not yet, but maybe one day that. Sharing the creativity of others is what I do, for now. I’m tasked with the often frustrating challenge of convincing my audience – and sometimes, myself – that what these musicians, these artists, these actors, these singers and dancers and magicians and impersonators and playwrights and directors, that what these people have to say is worth hearing. It’s worth seeing. It’s worth paying for, too, but that needn’t always be the case.
The reasons will be varied; the clichés are all there and everyone knows them. You’ll laugh until you cry. Spellbinding. Stellar performances from a strong cast. Raising the roof for a rocking good time. Unmissable. Dancing in the aisles. Something for everyone.
Well the truth is, everyone wouldn’t want to go, and sometimes I’m among them. I’m tired. Life is hard, you guys. It rains a lot here and I’d be happier with one less trip outside some nights. But I know, now, I’ve learnt well enough that it’s some delightful twisting together of strands in the cosmos determining the shows I nearly don’t attend are the ones I most enjoy.
Which is why I like to think that if I can’t make them go, I can make them wish they had. And maybe next time, if we’re lucky and there is one, they will.