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
"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."
"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
"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