Christopher Nosnibor’s Guide to Being a Music Reviewer – Part Six

It’s been just over a year since I posted the last of the five previous ‘Guide to Being a Music Reviewer’ posts. I’ve been busy, launching my own site – Aural Aggravation – while drowning in emails with downloads and streams, offering interviews and live shows, and wading through endless CD. To be clear, I’m certainly not complaining about any of this. But equally, I’m not getting rich off any of this: my reviews for other sites are unpaid, and Aural Aggravation is ad-free as a matter of principle.

Generally, I keep the CD I get sent if they’re any good, the bulk of the remainder I donate to charity shops. However, occasionally, I will find I’m running out of space and stick a handful up on eBay (though I’m always mindful never to list anything prior to release date, or even until a fair while after so as not to take potential sales from the artist). I tend to start all of my sales with a .99p starting bid, because ultimately, it’s more about getting rid of stuff than profiteering.

Now, it’s not often I’ll gripe about specific personal matters, but on this occasion, it feels appropriate, given that it ties in with the broader issue of the economics of music reviewing, the music industry and beyond.

Earlier this week I sold an album with a sole bid at .99p. Three days after the auction closed, the buyer paid through PayPal with the message ‘second class post is fine.’ So the following day, in my lunch break, I went to the post office and sent it by second class post (and obtained proof of posting, of course).

Two days later, I received the following message:

so pleased with cd but was about to register my dissatisfaction with postage and system refers me back to you.,,,,i find 1 pound 50p excessive for a 72p stamp and a recycled jiffy….over 100% mark up on postage

I was rather miffed by this. 100% markup on the postage itself, maybe – at least on the face of it – but in context, the complaint seemed, well, just a bit twatty. But of course, the customer is always right, supposedly, and so I elected for diplomacy and replied as follows:

I’m sorry you’re unhappy with the cost of P&P.

I charge a flat rate p&p for CDs, although actual costs do vary. For example, ones in jewel cases etc. tend to come in heavier, and I usually use first class, which is (on average) around £1.25-1.65. I always recycle jiffies, not simply for economy to me, but to keep packaging costs down for buyers, and for the good of the environment.

However, you did advise in your delivery instructions that second class was fine. I therefore used second class as requested, hence the lower cost of the stamp.

I would add that eBay take 15p in fees off the 99p sale price of the CD, and another 10p in fees for my p&p costs postage. PayPal in turn deduct 28p on a transaction of £2.49, meaning I make on average 71p per CD (ignoring the cost of tape, etc, and the time it takes to pack and post it), although granted, on this occasion, I’ll have made £1.41.

That said, I’m willing to refund you 70p if you so wish.

I genuinely believed he would be shamed into making a deal of 70p, given that he’d purchased a fairly recent album, in mint conditions and with a press release thrown in, for £2.49, within 48 hours of making payment.

Instead, he accepted the offer, saying “that would be appreciated”.

It’s more than I can say for his custom. If you want to get rich, don’t become a music reviewer.

ebay-reveals-new-company-logo-7cfa25d9f9

eBay: where tossers shop for bargains and complain that their bargain wasn’t quite bargain enough

Corporate Christmas

This piece was penned with a view to fitting the ‘Black Friday’ theme of December’s Fictions of Every Kind spoken word night at The Wharf Chambers, Leeds, on 30th November 2015 (which, incidentally, was great, with a good mix of writers of outstanding quality, and a brilliant atmosphere in a super venue).

‘Corporate Christmas’ is a part of the ever-expanding and presently ongoing ‘Rage Monologues’ project, and as such, is designed first and foremost as a performance piece. However, as I’m aware my live performances are few and far between, and tend to take place in the north of England, there are may who won’t be able to hear this material. So, in the spirit of the season, I thought I’d share this piece, which doesn’t feature in the tour edition pamphlet of The Rage Monologues, here.

Enjoy…

 

Corporate Christmas

It’s all about the money. But at a certain point, the money becomes theoretical. Top-flight executives, boards of directors, the upper echelons of the corporate hierarchy, I get. No, that’s not true. What I get is that it takes a certain kind of person to become a top-flight executive, a director on the board, to scale the heights and reach the upper echelons of the corporate hierarchy. A sociopath, no more and no less. I will never understand the mindset, the megalomania that drives such criminal disregard for everything other than money. They’re so far removed from the reality of the everyday, so distanced from the shop floor, they’re effectively exempt. They’re wired differently. They don’t see their employees as humans. They don’t see their customers as human. They never hear the voices of the downtrodden, the weary, the world at large. They can’t hear us cry out, fists raised.

You’ve got the money.

You’ve got the status.

You’ve got the power.

You’ve got the control.

You’re fucking us all over.

You don’t see the planet as a finite resource. Everything exists for your benefit. And nothing is ever enough. You have everything already. What more can you possibly want? More… always more. Because money doesn’t just talk. It buys whatever the fuck you want. Want it? Buy it. Because you can.

What do you want? World domination!

When do you want it? Yesterday!

Competition? You’ve bought the competition, and shut it down.

Regulation? You laugh in the face of it. You’ve bought the regulators.

Government? You’ve bought the government. The parties are in your pocket, paid off with the money not spent on paying tax. You’re not the law – you’ve bought the law.

But the countless other layers of management, from the cringing petty bureaucrats at the lower managerial levels, to the ones who command payola and power but don’t own a fleet of yachts or several Pacific islands… I get where they’re coming from. And they, they’re the worst fucking scum.

You, you’ve also got the money – not as much, but just enough to think you’re special, to afford the finer things in life, not least of all thanks to the company credit card, the expense account. Like you fucking need it on your salary – pleading poverty while cruising in your Audi, smugging it up, your 2.4 kids in private schools and destined for top universities and to follow in your patent leather footsteps.

You’ve got the status – not as much as the real high-flyers, but club class will do. You’ve got enough to flash it around, to swan off on management away days and three-hour “working lunches”, plotting espionage and tax avoidance on your iPhones while chilling in first-class lounge suites making like your lives are so pressured, while not having the first clue what it’s like to have to worry about the bills – your pampered wives sipping Pinot Grigot from balloon glasses on leather corner sofas in front of a 60” flatscreen while wearing a white fluffy dressing gown, perish the thought they might break a nail in a five-bed townhouse with the heating cranked up to thirty.

You’ve got the power – not world domination, but you’ve got a hotline to the gods of business, and they know people who know people who know people who know people and the next thing, you’ve bought into Europe and you’ve got steer on the TTIP… so you’ve got power enough to throw around, enough to make you feel good while holding others down. You need to hold them down, keep them in their place.

You’ve got the control – just enough to live out your fantasies of power play. Those rebels and potential usurpers… you know how to dispense with them. Dissent? Crush it! Remove it! Yes, there are ways and means to sidestep legislation about unfair dismissal and discrimination… show them the door. No-one’s going to stop your march.

We need to make cuts to boost profit! The shareholders have spoken! The directors have spoken!

So what do you do? What do you do? Front-line staff every time: you’ll never see management voting for a cull of management, a stripping back of the layers of the hierarchy, no. Because it’d be like turkeys voting for Christmas. You’ve got just one interest, and that’s self-interest.

So you stand there in your sharp suit with your company laptop rucksack, your sharp haircut and your buzzwords, making like you actually give a fuck as you apologise for the cuts, the redundancies as you lay off yet more staff, just to protect your own bonus. Cunt.

You think you hold the power, that you have ownership. But you’re all part of the same system. The capitalist system. You’re still climbing over one another to attain material goods, more and more and more, and nothing is ever enough.

You don’t own capitalism: capitalism owns you. You’re still a part of the system, a system the purpose of which is to make people buy shit they don’t need with money they don’t have.

The Blind Lead the Blind, Pig: Craft Brewers vs Crafty Brewers

Today, a colleague of mine presented me with a bottle-shaped wrap of newspaper. On inspection, the newsprint looked to be slightly yellowed and aged, and the stories similarly ancient, with headlines about flappers, jazz and the like.

PigWrapped

It looked better when I received it than on arrival home

Within the clandestine-looking wrap (which was rather torn and tatty-looking by the time I’d carted it home in my messenger bag, which was full of CDs and my Asus notebook) was a bottle of cider. He’d received a crate of Blind Pig cider for Christmas from the boyfriend of one of his daughters: he happens to be involved in the brewing industry in some kind of sales capacity. My colleague seemed to think he was in fact employed by Carlsberg or a similar major, but he was intrigued by the cider, which appeared to be an entirely independent venture. He wanted my opinion, knowing me to be something of an enthusiast and not entirely lacking in knowledge or expertise where alcoholic beverages are concerned.

Wrapper

Fake newspaper wrapping, and all that jazz

Indeed, the information on the elegantly-shaped and vintage-looking bottle, with its suitably retro labels gave precious little away, and the same is true of their website. Pretty much all on-line coverage is devoted to rave reviews of its pop-up prohibition-themed launch event. Moreover, inspecting what I had brought home and which now sat on my kitchen table all looked distinctly prohibition-era US: the bottle’s capacity, 16.9 US fl oz, and the alcohol content, 8 per cent proof. there’s no question that they’ve gone all out for cultivating a strong image and a brand that’s all about cult cred.

But here’s where they’ve slipped. Anyone with any real knowledge wouldn’t need to look at the rear label, which confirmed the brew was produced ‘in the EU’ and that its alcohol content was 4% ABV. All these bullshitters who try to look hard and / or cool by referring to drinks – spirits in particular – by their ‘proof’ strength are only airing their ignorance in public. Wow, you’re drinking a whisky or vodka that’s 80% proof? Must be tough… oh, no, wait, it’s only a regular 40% ABV. It won’t turn you blind, sunshine. And the nicely-shaped bottle is of course 500ml in capacity, 68ml short of a proper pint thanks for the metricisation of, well, everything.

Bottle

Nice bottle neck

So, what’s pitched as a ‘premium’ cider for ‘connoisseurs’ and therefore ‘superior’ and ‘edgy’, with its unusual flavour (Blind Pig Cider comes in threw flavours: whiskey, honey and apple; rum and poached pair; bourbon and blueberry, with a bottle of the whiskey, honey and apple perched on my decidedly post-millennium IKEA pine folding table), is starting to look very like another exercise on kitsch marketing of something ultimately mainstream trendy, namely fruit-flavoured ciders.

Label

Neat label

So how is this different from, say, Dark Fruits Strongbow? Well, I’d question just how much it is. It’s light, it’s fizzy and however hard you chill it’s, it’s incredibly sweet. The flavour isn’t unpleasant, and there is a smoky, peaty tang, a hint of charcoal that hints at single malt and bourbon. And yes, bourbon is sweet in comparison to the majority of single malts (the raisin and honey hints of something like Jura excepted) but even accepting that we’re talking about whiskey and not whisky, this isn’t that kind of sweetness. Actually’ let’s unpack that flavour set again: whiskey, honey and apple. The honey speaks for itself, and you’d expect sweetness from it, but again, honey beers like Waggledance aren’t as cloying as this, and as for apple… wait,apple flavoured cider? that’s beyond audacious. What next, grape flavoured wine? Gin flavoured gin? Milk flavoured mikshakes? The point is, unless it’s a ‘flavoured’ cider, it should be apple flavoured, no? Well, actually, no: cider should taste of fermented apples and have a crisp tartness, whereas this has that claggy, artificial apple sweetness. It’s simply not refreshing.

Pint

Sorry, favourite festival glass

While they’ve done a good job of creating a mystique around the product and hiding any major brewery connections, it feels like a huge con, another example of the mainstream hijacking burgeoning trends, specifically the craft brewing fad that’s all the rage right now. A real ‘craft’ cider wouldn’t use spirit flavourings, of that I’m certain: this hasn’t been near a drop of whisky, or an apple as far as I can tell.

Sipping this syrupy fizz, I’m reminded of both Kopparberg and the deceptive marketing of Blue Moon beer, which despite its independent ‘handcrafted’ appearance, is produced and marketed by MillerCoors, and its cloudiness isn’t a natural unfiltered haze but the result of a ‘clouding agent’ being added. In turn, it’s no different from a major record label creating a subsidiary that’s pitched to all intents and purposes as being ‘independent’ as a vehicle for pushing ‘alternative’ band signings that present a sanitised, mass-market version of the underground scene. it’s the way of the world, and the way of capitalist markets: most innovations and revolutions rise from the underground, from the zero-budget, and as soon as there’s a sustained groundswell, the big corporations come sniffing around wanting a piece of the action.

While I expect the origins (and the source of its bankrolling) will be revealed one way or another in due course, the bottom line is that Blind Pig Cider ain’t what it presents itself as being (c’mon, real newsprint would be cooler and more environmentally sound than ersatz repro newspaper wrappings, as real apples would be more appealing than a syrupy synthetic shot of flavour) and nor is it especially good: I have a very real need to cleanse my palette with a can of Scrumpy Jack.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at christophernosnibor.co.uk

Lunch Break

I’ve got half an hour and a lot to do. Namely, I need to bank some cheques. I need to post a package. I need some athlete’s foot treatment and some sleeping tablets, plus some batteries. I need to move.

The world has other ideas. I’m not paranoid, I don’t think the world is against me or that it’s some kind of conspiracy. But why has the world decided to descend on the city centre during my lunch break, and to shuffle around at an aimless crawl? Hasn’t anyone else got anything better to do? Where’s the urgency? How does anyone get anything done? Life’s too short to gawp and lick at every shop window, to stop for a breather every third step. If these dinosaurs don’t get out of my way I’m going to saw my toes off right in front of them while they dawdle over bath salts and nail polish in the narrow aisles of Boots. Chances are though that they wouldn’t even notice, making my statement for nought. Still, I make it out alive and without leaving any corpses in my wake. I consider this a major achievement, but my jaw’s aching with the constant grinding of my teeth.

The dregs of humanity have descended on the Post Office in time for my arrival. A man in his 60s lumbers and lurches down the pavement at a crawl, pointing at windows and bouncing off walls. I slow my pace, unable to pass him as I near my destination. He swerves into the open doorway, looks around surprised, staggers back a couple of paces almost stepping on my toes, then rolls forward a stuttering step or two to take an unsteady position in the queue. I take my place behind him, mindful to keep my distance. His leather jerkin, stained and greasy, stinks. He’s mumbling constantly to himself… “My girlfriend… yes, indeed.” He spits into his hand, then dusts the rancid jacket down with the spittle from his palm.

A woman striving hard to affect a well-to-do air as she puffed her checks and satchel-like eyebags entered the office behind me and immediately stands apart from the queue and positions herself behind the person being served at the nearest kiosk. Perhaps she didn’t understand the concept of queuing or simply considered herself to be above such plebeian pursuits. Eventually, her turn arrived and I observed her being served at the next counter. She was wanting to post package. Rich or poor, she’s clearly missing some vital faculties. “I’ve got lots of stamps, I don’t suppose I can use any of these,” she says, producing a wad of books of stamps of numerous denominations

The cretin’s wearing below-the-knee shorts. A T-shirt bearing some absurd logo and the legend ‘Sex Wax’, and a baseball cap. No big deal, he’s just another average 20-something old idiot, and one with a short attention span and limited patience. That much is clear as he steps and lunges backwards and forwards, leering and peering from side to side, as if this perpetual movement will somehow accelerate the queue. And he’s eating a chewy candy bar. Huge great nags, which he chomps and slavers over like a fucking hungry dog on a bone. Eventually, I get served. I pay for my batteries and get out, not waiting for my receipt. I round the next corner, passing the large glass front of Starbucks where people sit at the counter, looking out at the world going by. I’m paying it no mind, but my eye is caught by a blingy diamante-encrusted iPhone being lofted to eye two girls sitting facing outwards and grinning at the screen at the end of an extended arm. ‘Selfie! This is us in Starbucks! BFF!xx’

And so it is that the pinnacle of our evolution revolves round the discovery that it’s possible to turn a camera round. No more do tourists need to stop strangers in the street to ask them to snap them in front of landmarks and amusing signs. So what if the landmark or sign is cropped from the shot or obscured by blurred, looming faces, this is life, living in the moment and everyone’s life is better than everyone else’s.

I never thought I would actually be happy to be back in the office.

Easter, Christianity and the Big Corporate Con

I lost count weeks ago how many times I was asked the question. “Are you doing anything nice for Easter?” people were wanting to know. Family, friends, work colleagues, they were all asking… I hadn’t really given it much thought, but after a half dozen Easter cards from various family members had dropped through the letter box, and I found myself at the checkout queue behind a guy making the most of their three for £10 offer by filling his trolley and bagging 50 quid’s worth, I started to wonder if perhaps I ought to get to thinking. What was everyone else doing?

Days out, egg hunts for the children, generation-spanning family gatherings for roast feasts, couples splashing out on super-sized deluxe confectionery for one another. Clearly, doing nothing was not an option unless I wanted to position the Nosnibor household in that minority bracket of those who exile themselves from society by refusing to participate in any kind of festive activity. In the week and a half before the Good Friday holiday, social networks were aclog with images of fluffy bunnies, cutesy chicks, lambs (all thoughts of slaughter completely dispelled) and people gurgling about their imminent trips away. No, doing nothing was not an option. To do nothing would be to miss out. But on what? And why is Easter such a big deal?

Flick on the news and the BBC New Channel are cutting live to York, where the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, was busy waterboarding some zealots in the street in front of the Minster. Fair enough, you might say: Easter is after all a Christian festival – arguably the most important. The birth of Christ may be cause for celebration, but it’s the crucifixion and resurrection upon which the religion is built. Why not take the opportunity to reinforce the Christian aspect of the religion’s major festival when it’s under threat of becoming just another excuse to cut loose and enjoy four consecutive days off work (unless you happen to work in retail) by revisiting the Middle Ages? Well, the fact that Easter is another example of the Christian religion superimposing its own calendar over the preexisting pagan calender – specifically the pagan holiday of Ēostre – in order to obliterate the worship of ancient deities and nature is one very good reason.

Baptisms

A picture speaks a thousand words, especially when you can’t speak because you’re drowning in the name of Christ

 

Baptism 2

Grinning Christian sadist with a beard and the Archbishop of York reach the apex of spiritual ecstasy while drowning a young girl in the name of God

 

For a full and unbiased report, go to the BBC.

But all of this notwithstanding, what’s curious is the massive upsurge in the popularity and commercialisation of Easter in recent years. Could it really be that the economic downturn that began around 2008 prompted a bunch of cynical marketing companies representing big-money commerce decided the best way to boost revenue was to promote Easter-themed products in order to spur a cash-strapped society to part with their limited disposable income on things they neither needed nor wanted? And, on seeing a bandwagon rolling, the rest of the business world decided it hop on board for fear of being left behind? Well, quite probably.

Could it equally be the case that, depressed by the general shitness of life and working conditions – for those fortunate enough to still be in employment in the wake of the credit crunch – the majority of the population decided that actually, they were drawn by the mass-marketed idea of a celebration that happened to coincide with the slow emergence from a dismal winter marked by long, dark days, even longer, darker nights, destitution and flooding, and thought the antidote to their malaise could be to indulge in a colossal bout of retail therapy? Quite probably.

 

Chick

Multicoloured fluffy chicks: what’s not to love about Easter?

The celebration of spring is noble and something I’m keen to get behind. The springing of new life, the longer, warmer says, the buds, the blossom. It’s truly profound, remarkable, something far greater than human comprehension or existence. And far beyond the great capitalist con. Since when did spending money you don’t have on shit you didn’t need to make yourself feel better enter any kind of spiritual equation? Is this what life’s about now? And yes, that’s a rhetorical question.

Corporate Easter cash-ins? Just say no….

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

Pre-emptive annual X-Factor blog post: Cowell can recycle the same crap year after year, so why can’t I?

Yes, it’s true, I’ve posted a version of the same blog post ever year for the last 5 years or so now, and yet it continues to be apt. So I might as well get in early and beat the rush. And yes, this piece will appear in print for the first time when The Changing Face of Consumerism is published as a physical edition by Clinicality Press in the coming weeks. And no, there won’ be any stands for it in retail outlets anywhere.

The Changing Face of Consumerism: X-Factor Christmas Number One Shocker

I suppose it was inevitable really. Despite the efforts of [INSERT SOMEONE WHO THINKS THEY’RE CLEVER HERE] to outmanoeuvre the hype machine with some tongue-in-cheek alternative hype, there weren’t really any other contenders for the supposedly coveted UK Christmas Number 1 slot. And so, And so, for the third / fourth / fifth / sixth / etc (delete as appropriate) year in succession, the winner of X factor, the ITV ‘talent’ content that runs for what seems like about 50 weeks of the year, has had the best selling single at Christmas.

Congratulations to [INSERT NAME OF X-FACTOR WINNER HERE]. No, really: I don’t have any real issues with him/her, other than that s/he was compelled to audition for such a credibility-free contest, and [INSERT NAME OF SOME SMUG GOBSHITE CELERITY] was backing him/her from the off (well s/he has to do something to keep themselves hip with the kids, right?). But I do have serious issues with the process.

I’m not saying that the whole audition / rehearsal / live performance / public voting / etc. process isn’t hard work or nerve-wracking for contestants, but really, when it comes down to it, what we’re watching is a glorified and overhyped karaoke competition. And the public fucking love it. They get to vote for their favourite, and the lucky winner, who’s already done all of the necessary marketing and promotion for the last few months on prime-time television, gets to put out a record that half the nation are going to buy because they voted for it. Yes, the public gets what the public wants. And once again, the public wants mediocre slop. I can cope with that: it was ever thus. But what’s the alternative?

Aye, there’s the rub: there is no alternative, at least not that’s readily available or easily accessible. And this is where I return to a point I’ve made on various occasions throughout the year on this (and other people’s) blogs: the marketplace is becoming less competitive, not more. Consumer choice is practically a myth. While the large corporations (in all industries, not just music) are so fixated on finding the Next Big Thing – and fast – the idea of the next medium-sized thing and the slow-burning long-term investment thing ceases to be of interest. They want success and they want it NOW! The shareholders want to see a return – NOW – and in order to achieve these things, there’s no scope for taking a gamble. If an executive makes one wrong decision, they’re out of a job (although probably given a substantial golden handshake for their royal fuck-up because that’s how it works these days. There are rewards for failure if you’re high enough up the corporate ladder. But I digress…)

Long-time readers of my blog may recall my bemoaning the closure of York’s last independent record store in the summer, and may also remember, more recently, my griping about the fact that neither of the remaining two stores, HMV and Zavvi (formerly Virgin) were stocking singles any more, on any format. Well, I dropped into HMV earlier this week to find that HMV were actually stocking singles again. That is to say, a single, and they had literally hundreds of it on special display stands around the store. Yup, [INSERT NAME OF X-FACTOR WINNER]’s single, [INSERT CORNY TITLE HERE]. At £3.99 a copy. Four fucking quid! So what if I wanted to buy a different single? Tough shit. If I wanted a single, it was ‘[INSERT CORNY TITLE HERE] or nowt. Suffice it to say I left with nowt.

My local Sainsbury’s is tiny and poorly stocked, but it’s within reasonable walking distance (quite important for someone who doesn’t drive). It doesn’t really stock many CDs – a few greatest hits and various artists compilations and perhaps the top ten chart albums. Again, this doesn’t exactly represent a great choice. But no matter. My local Sainsbury’s doesn’t stock singles. But wait, what’s this? I strolled in yesterday evening for a few groceries and was stunned to see, by the entrance, a huge display stand of black cardboard with a huge red X on top. The plague? Yes and no: row upon row of , [INSERT NAME OF X-FACTOR WINNER] singles. At £3.99 apiece. Four fucking quid! Etc, etc.

Like CCTV springing up on every street corner, within a matter of days there’s been a viral explosion of these CD displays. It’s remarkable how quickly they’ve managed to record it, get the artwork done, the CD pressed and distributed. Anyone would think the record company had known all along. Makes one wonder just how much of the million-pound recording contract that is the X Factor prize goes into subliminal messaging during the series… especially amid the outcry from fans of [INSERT CONTENDER HERE] who said they couldn’t get through (although I can’t say that bothers me too much, because [INSERT CONTENDER HERE] is a cock anyway and we all know these things are rigged).

So what’s my point? It’s hard to say any more. I’ve never been lethargic in seeking out the things I like, however underground, esoteric or unobtainable via the more obvious commercial channels. But I’m growing increasingly frustrated by the evermore obvious squeeze being placed on choice. Most people won’t go to the lengths I’m willing to, and the casual buyer simply won’t purchase something they can’t find. Put simply, artistic merit and even the idea of quality is being shunned in favour of a quick buck. I’m convinced it’s not sustainable, but right now I can’t see where it will end.

XFactor

Really, why do people let these smug cretins tell them what music they like (while being conned into believing they’re actually choosing their ‘winner’)?

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk.

Picture this…. and this… and this… and this…

As someone who has a keen interest in visuals, I often feel frustrated by the limitations of my abilities as a photographer, and of my camera. As a music reviewer, I often like to take pictures of the bands I see, and while my images are often of a reasonable standard, I will confess to feeling somewhat embarrassed when standing in the front row with my £49 Fuji Finepix JZ100. The whole car / camera lens / penis extension analogy is entirely applicable, and the sneers at my diminutive kit aren’t purely paranoia.

Not everyone’s toting a £2,000 digital SLR with a telephoto they can rest between the monitors while lounging by the sound desk, of course. The vast majority of people snap away on their smartphones, which often pack cameras with insane specs. The Sony Xperia Z1 comes with a 27.1MP camera, and the Nokia Lumia 1020 not only has 41MP is advertised as a camera first and a smartphone second. And with a Xenon flash and Zeiss optics, we’re talking pro photography standard gear here. And again, these posers look down on my paltry 14MP cam with its mere 8x optical zoom and wonder why the fuck I’m not using flash. Granted, I do end up with more dark blurry shots than they do, but when I time a shot right, I do succeed in capturing the lighting as it is on stage, rather than a washed-out shot that illuminates the blank wall at the back of the stage. And I do think I have a reasonable eye for composition, something that the best camera in the world and all the Instagramming under the sun won’t give you.

But there’s something more than this that renders the current obsession with expensive, high-spec photography equipment utterly pointless, and that’s how we (that’s ‘we’ as in the techno-savvy mainstream populace) view pictures. There’s no question that we live in a visual age. As the Internet has evolved (back in the mid 90s content was essentially text-based) so the importance of visuals has come to the fore. We expect and demand good graphics, and lots of them – to the extent now that many gig reviews consist only of images, with no text whatsoever, and every fractional corner of our lives are documented in images. Millions of images. Over and over. A hundred pictures of every night out, several dozen snaps of ever day trip or walk in the park, every meal and drink meticulously recorded for posterity as evidence of the full and fulfilling lives everyone leads. People are obsessed with providing proof that their life is being not only lived to the full and jam-packed with fun and amazing experiences, but a reminder that they have the best device on which to capture all of these fantastic experiences in a quality that’s even more intensely real than reality itself.

Arguably, people are no longer really living ‘in the moment’ because they’re observing every moment through a display screen. Looking back at the images and video clips doesn’t recreate the moment, or facilitate a re-run of a pre-lived experience: it becomes the experience in itself, a second-hand version, a document that represents the moment never truly lived first-hand. Everyone’s a viewer, a recorder, a spectator. Where are the actual participants?

Above all, though, despite the fact screens on smart phones are larger than ever before and have higher resolution than at any time in the past, the fact remain that the bulk of images are posted to social networking sites or photo sharing sites, and viewed on smart phones or tablets. Real-life, shot in ultra-high-resolution, viewed on a screen 3” or 4” wide. What a waste.

 

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Fuck yeah! $32,000 well spent… check this awesome pic of my breakfast! That fried bread is so real-looking you could eat it off the screen!

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk.