Why Ryan Adams Isn't Allowing Photos On His Current Tour

samwimage02.jpg
Illustration by Sam Washburn
Jason Isbell and Ryan Adams onstage at the Peabody Opera House.
On Tuesday, Ryan Adams' solo tour brought him to St. Louis. You can read our review of the show, but you will note that we have no accompanying photos. Instead, we sent illustrator Sam Washburn, who returned with three pieces from the show. You can download hi-res versions of all three below.

On this tour, Ryan Adams is playing solo in theaters with powerful acoustics. Representatives of the artist say he is not allowing photography at all the shows in order to cut down on possible distractions for other audience members.

Download the above illustration here.

The restriction is not being taken lightly. This reviewer from Louisville.com reports strict enforcement on the Louisville stop on Monday, saying, "And if you were so foolish as to even flash the backlit screen of your phone momentarily, you were descended upon with klieg lights and a stern admonition to PUT AWAY YOUR PHONE."

Adams is certainly not the first artist to refuse photos on tour. Kanye West did it for his Glow in the Dark tour in 2008, though the reasons were different -- he was hoping to keep his elaborate staging as much of a surprise as possible.

And while concert photography may seem like a distraction or nuisance to some artists, there's no doubt that it is a valuable part of a music fan's overall experience. Whether you were at the show or not, a great concert photo tells you something about a musician. We have seen many that change the way we feel about an artist and therefore how we hear her work.

Washburn's illustrations are great documents, but they're very different from photography. What do you think? Is the risk of a quiet moment broken by jostling cameras and clicking shutters worth the tradeoff? Let us know in the comments.

samwimage01.jpg
Illustration by Sam Washburn
Download a hi-res version here.

samwimage03.jpg
Illustration by Sam Washburn
Download a high-res version here.

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17 comments
Cranky
Cranky

True story: local openers suffer the frequent spacious gap that forms between the stage and audience for non-headliners, bridged only by a couple who stand a few feet in front of them, mouthing their lyrics - all the while heads-down into their "smart" phones, tapping away.

"OMG! I so totally love this band I'm not paying attention to!"

s t
s t

The Photo in the moment of the concert is a moment in time that is essential to the feel of the performance. The artist has to be in the moment and not be distracted by flash photography. 

Rob Geurtsen
Rob Geurtsen

If the intention of the show is a seductive intimacy, no camera's etc.

Frankmaltese2000
Frankmaltese2000

Nice illustrations. Ryan Adams is such a d*&*head. So self-important. Of course he'd be the type of guy to have a rule like this.

Pwnzorrz
Pwnzorrz

What a douche.  What next?  Is he going to ban the audience from talking?  That's distracting. Ban the audience from moving around? That's distracting. Hot Women? They're distracting.

Alan Hess
Alan Hess

As a concert photographer I think a distinction needs to be made between the pro who comes in. Shoots the first two or three songs from a designated area, then leaves and the fan who spends the whole night trying to get a shot with their cell phone. Allow the credentialled photographers the chance to get their shots, if they are pros, you will never even notice them.

OutsideTheLaw
OutsideTheLaw

It's up to the artist.  Some allow it and some don't, and their wishes should be respected.  Personally, I'd prefer it if people didn't do and just put away the phones and listened.  Their is middle ground too -- some artists don't allow flash photog but no-flash is OK.  Others just let the professional media take photogs from the pit during one or two pre-identified songs.  I seen some artists (Chrissie Hynde) stop playing, say "take your damn photos now and no more", and then resume....

Chris Ward
Chris Ward

I would like illustrations at every show. This is great!

Clayton
Clayton

First it was cell phones, then text messaging, then camera phones, then video phones, then internet browsing phones....It's getting very hard to keep an audience focused and engaged. I think it would be very easy for a 3rd party observer to notice a huge difference between crowds of this size with cell phones and without them. I've heard musicians say that with all the pictures and video, concerts in this age sometimes feel more like a musical press conference. Why go meet somebody new, or dance, or listen more intently when four of your friends just tweeted back about your new shoes?! I'm not an old fogey. I happen to think all these advances in personal technology are awesome. I do however think they are socially divisive for events and take away the kinetic energy of a concert. I hope more artists make a demand for these devises to be kept away. Also, these illustrations are awesome.

Mick
Mick

This guy hasn't been the same since Cuts Like A Knife.

Jennylane78
Jennylane78

I remember Damien Rice did something similar when he last came to town. He asked that the bartenders stop what they were doing and not serve while he played a few songs. He was able to completely unplug and was heard throughout the entire place without any distraction.

Anonymous
Anonymous

The illustrations are amazing!

guest
guest

love the illustrations. put the iphones away and focus on the magic unfurling before you.

Fastandbulbous
Fastandbulbous

The problem that I see is the level of courtesy. I've been to shows where you see the photographer swoop in through the crowd, snap a few pics, and then disappears like a leaf on the wind with the only notice their presence is a brief 'excuse me' as they move past you to get a good shot and a 'thanks' when they leave. That type make no impact on the concert-going experience and make the post-concert articles shine.

The last instance happened at a local venue. There wasn't an 'excuse me' or a 'may I get under your table for a second', there was just a dude swooping under the table between my friend's legs to clamp flashes to the railing. He did the same thing to 3 other tables when setting up, then again when breaking down, all in the middle of the set and without even a word about who he was or what he was doing. That kind of photographer needs to learn some common courtesy.

guest
guest

This was one of the best shows I have ever been to and I much appreciated the emphasis on no phones, photograpy, talking, etc.  It was an honor to have been part of such a magical night...

removeyourpants
removeyourpants

Except that from the majority of the comments here, people think this is a great idea. Guess we're all dickheads! Enjoy being elbowed by tweens who think that tweeting a blurry, shitty image serves a purpose!

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