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I’ve been meaning to write about photography and museums and
galleries for a while now, and I finally feel that I have some good
links to start a discussion.

Personally, I get really annoyed when museums or galleries ban
photography. I think using a flash or a tripod should certainly be
banned, but outright banning of snapshots is to me, just ridiculous.
It’s a Luddite‘s reaction, it’s a fool’s errand. I understand that
there are copyright issues, but please, let’s be realistic: ubiquitous
snapshots are here to stay.

Everyone, meet the 21st Century. She’ll be with us for the next 992 years.

The sanctity of copyright in an age of endless (and near free) digital
reproducibility is ludicrous, especially in a gallery/museum setting.
The frothing panic some angry gallery attendants work themselves into
over shitty little digital camera or cellphone shots astounds me (by
the way, what’s up with that? It seems the more established the museum,
the meaner the staff. One time I was literally yelled at and shadowed
at Houston’s CAM for DARING to question their photography ban, even
though I didn’t have a camera with me). Where does this come from? I
have a feeling it’s some modernist hangover bullshit. Get with the
program, boomers (and everyone else)!

A digital snapshot means next to nothing. Look at Flickr,
Picassa, Myspace or Facebook: it’s filled with pedestrian compositions and blurry party
shots. The Web 2.0 has (thankfully) destroyed the sanctity of image
recording technologies. Look at YouTube!

If anything, allowing digital snapshots in galleries and museums might
actually increase attendance. Let’s face it, outside of our little
bubble, nobody really cares about contemporary art. Most people in this
country will probably never step inside a museum or gallery unless it’s
either forced, or there’s a party inside. If it’s not on TV or the
Internet they don’t care. That’s another great thing about digital
snapshots: it’s free press, for chrissakes. Maybe someone will see a
shitty cellphone picture of his/her friend’s museum outing, do a little
bit of googling, and decide this looks pretty interesting, maybe
(s)he’ll check it out. We need all the help we can get.




So let’s get to the links:

"No Photo: A Discussion on Museum Photo Policies," on Art Fag City talks about how photography
bans are sometimes an economic thing, because shitty cellphone
snapshots will stop people from buying overpriced tchotchkes at the
gift shop.

"I (…) have little patience for museums and galleries who don’t allow photography. Generally
the press is excluded from this policy, but since you basically need to
be wearing a hat with a flashing red light reading blogger to keep the
guards from harassing you, it seems to me much easier to just let
people take pictures as they please. The concerns of the
museums are much more complicated than this however, and while I tend
not to have too much sympathy for museum stores worried about the loss
of postcard sales when they are charging Louis Vuitton rent, the issues they raise need to be discussed."

"Warhol is turning in his grave" by Cory Doctorow, on The Guardian
looks at the irony of banning photography at a Warhol show
because of copyright concerns.

"So what’s the message of the show? Is it a celebration of remix
culture, revelling in the endless possibilities opened up by
appropriating and reusing images without permission?

Or is it the
epitaph on the tombstone of the sweet days before the UN set up the
World Intellectual Property Organization and the ensuing mania for
turning everything that can be sensed and recorded into someone’s

"Museums are not the Enemy " on Musematic responds to Doctorow’s essay, offers a very lucid, rational and logical
defence of museums, and has a fantastic discussion going on in the

"With all of that said, I would like to see museums take a more
proactive approach, if possible, to securing copyright releases for
photography in galleries and educating their staff properly about
copyright issues."

And finally, check out Strictly No Photography‘s Art section,  because
the future cannot be stopped.

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9 Responses

  1. fanny pack

    “If anything, allowing digital snapshots in galleries and museums might actually increase attendance.”

    this post is filled with b u l l s h i t.

  2. Ivan L

    oh wow! that’s really constructive criticism, fanny pack!
    thanks a bunch for participating in the discussion and raising such fascinating and interesting points.

  3. portafoy

    I was in a museum recently that forbids photographs. It was the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Ironically, the show I was there to see was Thomas Struth’s Museum Photographs. I was chastised for taking a photo in a museum of a photo taken in a museum. I thought it was laughably stupid.

  4. Ivan L

    Unfortunately, it feels like the debate is mostly driven by laughable stupidity and an almost pathological deference to the status quo, portafoy. Case in point: the Lichtenstein show at AMOA. Almost every single print in the show is nicked imagery, and absolutely none of them can claim to be one of a kind. And guess what? No photography there. And their guards are some of the meanest in town. It’s a sticky situation on most sides but it’s also a situation where nobody who has any real power to change things seems to be stepping up.

  5. Rainey

    The Amon Carter in Ft. Worth has always allowed photography — you just sign a little release that says you won’t use the images commercially. I’ve always wished other TX museums would follow suit. Even getting permission to take press pictures can be a pain.

  6. ktodora

    Many museums allow for photography in their permanent collection. It’s when you are dealing with work that is on loan that things get tricky. Most likely it is the decision of the individual or institution that loaned the object as to whether the object can be photographed. The outlawing of photography of anything on loan has to be seen as an easier solution than to working stipulations into a contract.

  7. MsDoubleday

    Why did you plagiarize this post from the ArtFagCity Blog? I’ve noticed lots of stolen material in your blog posts in the past, mainly chunks of text copied and pasted from other sources, but this whole thing was pretty much lifted from another blog. Is that really the best Glasstire has to offer? people stealing blog posts from other, better blogs? Control C, Control V: The new language of journalism.

  8. MsDoubleday

    I guess ‘plagiarize’ wouldn’t be the right word when you cite and link to his blog. But still, can’t we have a NEW blog post about art in Texas? Isn’t that what this site is about? The only original writing in your post was a little bitching and a personal anecdote. Wasn’t it you who was just asking for more ‘Professionalism’?

  9. Dylan

    First of all, the idea that a glasstire blog should only concern itself with ‘Texas’ issues, and ignore any subject that might also have some relevance outside of Texas is pretty ridiculous. Secondly, raising the idea that art-blogs are much more complex than some links, some personal anecdotes, and even some criticism(bitching) shows a pretty poor understanding of what a web-log is to begin with. Thirdly, the purpose of the comments section is to engage in some meaningful discussion, not to immediately descend to petty quips and misinformed insults.
    Accusing a writer of plagiarism after they have clearly cited a source is at the very least lazy and at worst defamation. Not cool MsDoubleday.

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