I wrote a rather annoyed post against photographing works of art in museums. This was mainly a rant against cell-phone camera gaggles who cruise through the museum capturing blurred images of masterworks without really looking at them, not to mention getting in my way and seeming to miss the point of the museum: to look at art.
The blatant hypocrisy of this view, as I take photos in museums, is not lost on me, nor is the elitism of my quibbling justification that I really look at the art and try to be aware of the people around me.
To use my two exemplars for the last post, MoMA and Met have different photography policies. MoMA is quite good about letting it’s visitors take pictures without flash. The Met does not allow photography at all. The Met’s policy may be the best, as quite a few people at MoMA accidentally take flash photos. This could eventually harm the painting. Anyhow, photos of paintings are so unimpressive in quality compared to the original, it’s almost a waste of time to take one. (And did I mention the gaggles wielding camera phone?)
On the other hand, one of our compatriots here at Art Ravels suggested to me that they could be taking them to share with friends and relatives who will not have the opportunity to see them in person. To which I say, touche. Another commenter pointed out that he liked taking photos of installations and sculpture because he felt he was able to bring out different facets of the work. To which, again, I say touche.
Most interestingly, it was suggested that I look at Thomas Struth’s Museum Photographs, which document viewers reactions to art pieces. These well-behaved museum goers, even the children sitting on the floor, all seem to be looking at the paintings and not taking photos. But then again, all they ever do is stand their and stare. This got me thinking: more than a sign of visible approval, is taking a picture the one way a visitor can react when presented with an art object? Maybe people in museums should be able to do more, before the atmosphere turns into something as quiet, reverential, and ignored as the one below.
Art as it is most often presented is a take, not give, kind of thing. If you want to react to it, you end up removed to a different room miles away typing on a computer into a blog or some such tomfoolery. Perhaps photography is a sign of engagement. Do you think picture-taking is a way of responding to and interacting with the art?
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were more?