Let's end this photography ban

May 22 2013

Image of Let's end this photography ban

Picture: BG

There's an excellent article by Caroline Miranda in ARTnews on why many museums are lifting their photography bans:

No-photo policies can be difficult to enforce. “Guards are spending so much time focusing on someone holding a device that they might not see the person next to them touching the art,” says Alisa Martin, senior manager of brand management and visitor services at the Brooklyn Museum, an institution that has allowed photography in the majority of its galleries for roughly half a dozen years. “As the devices get smaller, it gets harder to manage. We have to ask ourselves, are we using our guards appropriately?”

Social media also complicates the issue. This past January, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project reported that 97 percent of the more than 1,200 arts organizations it polled had a presence on platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. [...]

With museums sharing so much imagery themselves, it can be difficult for visitors to understand that they can’t necessarily do the same. “If a museum is really active on social media, they’re putting forward the idea that they represent a venue that is all about being conversational,” says Simon. “For the visitor, it can be disturbing to then go to the physical space and be confronted with a policy that isn’t.” 

This reminds me that, about a year ago, I sent the above email to a grand fromage at the National Gallery, London, which is one of the few places left that prohibits photography. At the time, I had just seen a room guard shout (a little too aggressively) at a hapless tourist who had dared to get out their phone for a quick snap. I felt action was required. But reader, answer came there none...

Update - a reader writes, after just returning from Tate Britain:

On my last recent visit I spent time at the Courtauld Institute galleries: of course, no photography in the Picasso exhibition, but in the main galleries no prohibition; then off to the National for the wonderful Frederic Church sketches, where, the moment I entered the hallowed halls, I heard a guard shout threateningly at some hapless tourist who had dared to lift a camera phone. [...] In galleries there has to be an acceptance of photography - it's a losing battle, bad for business and for tourism - if in one gallery, why not in another? Commercial use of images is another matter altogether of course, and flash photography should not be allowed - it's just too distracting.

Update II - a reader in Australia writes:

I headed off to the National Gallery in Melbourne yesterday to discover if photography is allowed. The answer is yes - but no flash. Here is a lovely van Dyck for you, including label, since labels have been a bit topical on your blog recently. (Not super quality, just used my phone).

That's a fine and informative label. I've often noticed that in overseas museums, labels about British art are more detailed than those you'd find in Britain. Other countries don't seem to share our obsession with dumbing down.

Update III - the Grumpy Art Historian is very much against allowing photography. 

Update IV - 22.01.14 - still no response from the NG...

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