Problems With Art Galleries That No One Talks About (Take Photos All The Time)

Now here’s a little story I’ve got to tell, about an artist blogger you know so well.
It started way back in history, with a museum, a guard, and NYC – you see?

And that dear readers, is how you make a transitional joke from one post into the next one. Please see previous post for reference if you want to get the joke, but I’m going to move along so that I don’t lose this post’s momentum.

Let’s visualize for a moment here.

This is a situation that seems to happen all the time across the world in various museums and art galleries alike. You are seeing a-one-of-kind piece of history for the first time (often a famous art-work) and you want to take a photo of it for posterity and so that you can remember what you saw when you return home. Let’s be honest here, you’re done have an eidetic memory and you definitely aren’t getting any younger.

So you snap a photo.

Kinda like I did when I was visiting the New York Metropolitan Museum for the first time back in 2006. Yes, this story is 10 years old, and for you recent graduates and Millennials on the edge of the age generation cut off, that time probably doesn’t mean much to you.

But for the sake of the story let’s pretend you all do understand me. So you snap a photo with your digital camera (not your phone), and get the warm and fuzzies almost immediately, because you now have proof that you’ve been in the presence of greatness, and your loved ones can be excited or feign excitement when they see you again, and you both show and tell.

And this was definitely part of my intent, but not the whole plan. The whole plan was to get some photos, so I could reference them in my own art later on, and because folio pictures from art books aren’t always the best quality. And at as much as 100 bucks a pop, the costs add up quickly.

But then I felt it, a warm hand on my left shoulder. Ever so slowly followed by a deep voice. “You can’t take photos in here son, read the sign.”

Ace-of-Base-The-Sign-1024x1024

I had read the sign, I saw the sign, and it told me that these works were over a hundred years old and in a dark room to preserve their colour. And I thought I was being clever, because I know all about lightfastness in painting, and I made sure to turn my flash off on my camera (not my phone), because I was being respectful.

It didn’t matter though, I had been caught.

And the guilt quickly set in. But why should I feel this way, it was 2006 and people love to take photos, in fact, digital cameras were making it easier by the day for people everywhere to get into the photography hobby. So all I have are a couple of blurry memories of one room, and I can barely remember which artists I saw in there, so that sucks.

Luckily for us today though, because museums and galleries are loosening the reins on this particular restriction. Because people take photos everywhere, of anything, and all the time. We can thank smart phones for that phenomenon. It’s really difficult for a venue to justify taking away someones’s phone, because it’s not socially acceptable, and phones can save lives.

And from the perspective of the venue they have to decide if it’s more important to have guards paying attention to visitors touching antiquities or snapping photos. That and the challenge of social media. When organizations use social media to show work going up and down, can they really complain when people are using social media to generate traffic for them? The way we think about communication and conversation is changing, visual communication is becoming hot topic once again.

But of course the biggest challenge is the issue of copyright and fair use. I think that institutions need to protect themselves by asking for permission to take photos of work, but for the layman, taking photos for noncommercial use is a lot more permissible, which may be the first indicators of a culture shift.

As time changes peoples opinions about gender, sexuality, and race, and we become more compassionate, my theory is that we will also become better communicators because we need to and our ideas about images will shift too.

What do you think? Comments? Questions? Please leave some and also subscribe! See you tomorrow with a theory about a rabbit.

Tim!

 

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