October 15 2014

Image of Selfie!

Picture: BG

Yesterday, I was in the National Gallery for the first time since they allowed photography. So I took a selfie (in front of Rembrandt's - or not, depending on your view - 'Old Man in an Armchair'). I didn't see anyone else taking selfies, and nor did I see any bad photography behaviour either. But I was in the quieter rooms, and I didn't stay for that long. 

Anyway, I also got this email from a reader on the issue, who more or less hits the nail on the head:

I have been mulling over the photography issue over the last while and in the last 30 days (not to mention the London trip in July) I have visited numerous museums in Boston, Philadelphia (we saw a Vermeer on the its last day!) and Edinburgh – I really enjoyed the American Impressionists exhibition in Edinburgh - and taking photos is simply not an issue. I take a lot of photos and I exercise just the barest amount of restraint and wait until people have left a painting before stepping in to take my photo and it impacts no one. If it’s really crowded brush stroke aficionados then I simply return when it’s not so busy. My camera emits no sounds and with nobody in the vicinity it’s really a non-issue.

The real issue based on my experience is overcrowding and whether people are taking pictures or not it makes no difference if too many people are in a gallery. The National Gallery was the busiest by far and it was a different experience to the other galleries. If galleries want to increase traffic as seems to be the fashion of late they might want to consider set times as the Gardiner Museum in Boston does; it was busy but not over crowded (but they don’t allow photos).

The last two decades have seen, in the UK, a sustained attempt, driven by government policy, to significantly increase gallery visitor numbers. I think this was a good thing, and it has worked. The result is, though, some over-crowding at times. And the thing is, we're just going to have to get used to it. 

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