Thursday, December 22, 2011

Matisyahu Reportedly Kicks Photographer in the Face, Damages Her Camera

Larry Marano, Getty Images
Jason MacNeil/Spinner

Following last week's announcement that he shaved his longstanding beard and locks,Matisyahu is back in the news, for all the wrong reasons.

According to a Paper Magazine article, photographer Rebecca Smeyne was assigned to cover his 'Festival of Light' Hanukkah gig on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg. During the show, one of several he's playing at the venue, Matisyahu reportedly kicked Smeyne in the face and broke her camera flash. Eleven photos of the show accompany the article, one of which shows the artist looking less than pleased as he stares into the lens.

"Sorry about last night. I totally snapped," Matisyahu said at the start of a string of tweetsthis afternoon (Dec. 22), replying to both Smeyne and the magazine. "I wouldn't call it a kick, more like stepping into the crowd. And being that you've shot so many shows you should know how distracting a huge flash in your face is. Seemed like you were there everywhere I turned with that flash. Next time, be more sensitive to the performer."

"I wasn't even in the front row and as you can see in the photos I wasn't close to you at all most of the time," Smeyne quickly replied. Paper Magazine added no further comment aside from dubbing the incident "Matisyahu-gate" in a subsequent off-topic tweet.

Smeyne said that a photo pass was pre-arranged for the concert through the artist's publicists with "no mention of restrictions in terms of photography or flash." Halfway through the concert, Smeyne moved closer to take a picture of Matisyahu ,who was lighting a huge menorah. As he then moved towards center stage, Smeyne continued shooting with the flash. "And this is when things got weird," she said.

The photographer says he stepped towards her and "the next thing I knew Matisyahu's foot was on my face and I fell to the ground." Smeyne believed he had attempted to crowd surf but "he charged at me and attempted to forcefully wrestle the camera away from me." Unsuccessful in taking the camera, Matisyahu then "ripped the external flash off the top of the camera" and "he had clearly damaged it deliberately."

"I was just attacked by Matisyahu calling cops pressing charges," Smeyne tweeted after the incident. "Wtf! He kicked me in face and broke my camera!!!!!"

Smeyne then demanded to talk to the reggae artist's manager and called the police in order to file a report. Cops arrived while Matisyahu was still performing and "made it clear they weren't leaving" until his manager came outside. According to Smeyne, the manager "apologized for Matisyahu's behavior, and said it was 'out of character" while offering to pay for the damages. Smeyne accepted but still wanted to file the police report. "Then he offered to settle in cash, on the spot," she said. "He gave me a fat stack of bills, and I thanked the police for coming out and called it a night."

The photographer added she wasn't sure what caused him "to snap" but acknowledged it was his first performances with the new appearance. Before replying to Matisyahu's statements, Smeyne added more comments on her Twitter account today regarding the incident. "Just got a CALL from a stranger who was standing next to me last night; said he was horrified that Matis would 'treat a woman like that,'" she tweeted, while a subsequent tweet added she was receiving "a lot of comments online asserting that he is a misogynist."

So far, there has been no video proof of the incident.

UPDATE: Matisyahu has issued the following statement: "I regret what transpired when I tried to remove the camera from the photographer's hands last night. As an artist on stage, it is very distracting and disorienting to have a camera flashing in your face for an extended period of time. I reacted impulsively out of frustration and for that I apologize."

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