Photography at the NPG?

June 23 2013

Image of Photography at the NPG?

Picture: BG

I was cheered to see, on Newsnight on Friday, that the director of the National Portrait Gallery, Sandy Nairne, seemed to indicate that photography might be allowed in the National Portrait Gallery. Sandy's view was, like mine, that being allowed to take photos (if done quietly and considerately) meant that people engaged with the art on display more, not less, and that allowing people to share images would be good for the gallery.

Others, however, feel that allowing photography stops people looking 'properly' at paintings, and that we should compel them to look at art in a certain, traditional way. 

That said, I was sorry to hear of this reader's experience of the Queen's Gallery, where they do allow photography:

Went to the excellent exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery yesterday and, very efficiently, the warders asked me to put my mobile on silent while in there: I liked this as it suggested there would be a suitable atmosphere for concentration and it was also, of course, a mark of consideration for other visitors.   How wrong I was!  I can honestly say that I have never been to show where there were more unnecessary distractions. 

Aside from the commentaries on audio guides providing a distant background noise through headsets, many people had downloaded the app for their phones and spent most of their time standing in front of works searching through and reading the content rather than looking – I think there may have been audio content on this as well to add to the sound effects.  Then there were the cameras – all seemed to have electronic shutter noises as these were going off constantly.  Not to mention the fact that the happy snappers seemed to spend a great deal of time lining up their shots – I watched one gentleman carefully scan a case – and just the case - for minutes before quickly taking a photo (loudly) of an object and then walk off.

What made all this worse was the, otherwise, silence of the tomb atmosphere – as I was with friends, we seemed to be disturbing the company by actually have discussions in front of objects.

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