Why shoot other's art? (badly)

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Ross Chambers, Mar 10, 2009.

  1. Ross Chambers

    Ross Chambers Member

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    In particular in this story, the Mona Lisa.

    I found myself attempting a photograph of an abandoned machine shop which was also the site of an art exhibition. I was bailed up (and my movements followed by walkie talkie) by the students earning a few dollars as security folk by dissuading those who felt compelled to break the exhibition's no photos rules.

    Fortunately the student/security kids were from an art college and understood that I had no interest in shooting other people's works.

    However during the time that I was there an endless procession of snappers took endless snaps when security was not close.

    I just can't understand what their motives were. The likelihood of any decent result was nil: hand held, variable light etc. So what do people hope to gain from this? I'm puzzled. I may have understood to a slight degree if they had posed in front of the works.

    The link (with respect to our Sydney artists) tells a story even more egregious:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddes...2009/mar/09/mona-lisa-tourist-snappers-louvre
     
  2. mcgrattan

    mcgrattan Member

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    I was in the Louvre, and in the Musée d'Orsay, in January and the experience was completely spoiled by people photographing the art. You couldn't even look at half of the paintings because of the half a dozen people clustered in front of each one shooting at close-range with their pocket cameras [with flash]. The attendants just watched and let people do it. The experience was exactly as described in that Guardian article.

    By contrast, I was in a couple of galleries in Rome last year that made more of an effort to stop it [or completely banned photography altogether] and it was a much more pleasant experience.
     
  3. Wolfeye

    Wolfeye Member
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    Who are we kidding? These idiots don't even know HOW to turn the flash off. They "photograph" to prove they were there. That they stood before greatness, and thus, some greatness is due them. And, like everwhere else in the world, people feel entitled to do what they please. It's a herd mentality. Like on the freeway. If that guy's going 85, and that guy... well, if we ALL go 85 they can't arrest us all! Wheee!
     
  4. Pete H

    Pete H Member

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    Ross, I tend to agree with you. If I want a picture of a picture (or any art work), I buy the book or card or print, where you expect that the photographer had permission and time to light it properly etc. I always wonder why people take photos of statues too. It's somebody else's work, so a photo is second hand art.

    It becomes more interesting when extra elements are added. Some of my favourites of my own shots were taken in the Prado, Madrid, or the Louvre or the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. In each case, it is the interaction of the viewer with the art which is interesting, not the art itself. Art galleries are great places for people watching. Take a rangefinder, no flash, fast film, and just wait in a quiet place.

    This shot is from the Prado (Contax G2 & Delta 3200, sorry it's a neg scan with photoshopped border). It made me think about the ways that one can enjoy art.
    - Me, walking round the gallery as a passive viewer
    - The attendant is slumped there, bored silly and not enjoying the art at all
    - The painter who is appreciating the painting and creating his own copy
    - Me as photographer, seeing the juxtaposition of these elements and creating the photo
    - You, as viewer of my picture

    Are there more layers to it? Probably.

    Pete
     

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  5. OP
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    Ross Chambers

    Ross Chambers Member

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    Thanks for your picture Pete, it illustrates your interpretations well. I do like the photograph. I'm not sure if one could get away with it in Sydney (I did sneakily record a Tinguely style sculpture in a Sydney gallery, but the digital recorder and microphone were less obvious than any camera).

    I hesitate to say it, but perhaps in the right hands, a worthy photograph could be taken including the touristas and their cascading flashes in a gallery!

    Regards - Ross
     
  6. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber
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    I would occasionally like to photograph a painting to remember some details when I'm back at home, but I certainly wouldn't knowingly break any rules. I generally prefer available light to capture things as they are, so have no problem with no flash rules.

    In 2002, I toured the Vatican Museum and other things in that area. The museum allowed photos without flash and I took a few samples of the breadth of art history there -- mostly ceramics and sculpture. When we approached the Sistine Chapel, there were signs all over about no pictures, period; including those jobbies with the outline of a camera with a red ring and a slash through it. I stuck my camera in its bag. As we shuffled through the massive herd of people, I swear every twenty seconds a flash went off! I didn't see any evidence of people being hauled out -- of course, the mass of people was so thick, they probably could never figure out who did it. At any rate, it did seem rather annoying and disrespectful. Indeed, it's disrespectful to the 98% of tourists who follow the rules!

    I watched a tourist in Venice shooting away inside San Marco as he stood almost in front of a no pictures sign -- they had two of the red ring symbols, one of a Leica-like outline and one of a video cam -- he didn't even have to be able to read.

    DaveT
     
  7. Shmoo

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    I believe the technical term for these people is "touron"..."tourist"+"moron".

    :wink:
     
  8. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Member
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    My wife likes to take pictures during museum visits to record the experience, I don't understand it myself. On the other hand, I do take pictures of my own exhibits to have a record of how my work filled the space and how the viewers interact with the work itself.
     
  9. jamesgignac

    jamesgignac Member

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    A part of my photographic work these days is to document exhibitions of local artists (and good friends) throughout my little city of London, Ontario. When I do this sort of work, however, I make sure to do it well and control all aspects of the lighting, framing, etc. Most of the people I know who take snapshots at galleries aren't really enjoying the work for what it is, aren't being awed by the space they are in , and generally are doing as they see other people do who are just as confused as they are. Two people I know who do this sort of thing all the time (namely my father and step-mother) simply don't know what else to do in a gallery and are generally bored within 15 minutes of stepping into one.

    I'm a painter myself and know that there is no way of reproducing a painting photographically in a way that is at all accurate in terms of reproducing the effect of the painting - it's scale, the rawness of the materials in their present, tangible form, etc. The work I do is for documentary purposes only - I try to do as well as I can with the knowledge that I have but to even consider wasting the few moments I have in front of a true masterpiece by holding up a plastic, fumbly gadget between myself and the spectacle is beyond my comprehension.

    Oh, and Pete: that's a WONDERFUL Photo!!
     
  10. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    For a moment, I'll assume the role of devil's advocate:

    True, illegal and against the house rules ... but other than monetary support for in-house "cards" (hard to imagine the P&S crowd offering any quality based competition) ... What harm is done? I've heard the theory that repeated exposure to the IR content of the tiny flash units common to P&S will degrade the work over time, but that would take a tremendous amount of flash exposures.

    True, it IS annoying, but no one - or very few - are trying to defraud anyone by attempting to pass on their snapshot as the 'real thing'.
     
  11. Pete H

    Pete H Member

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    Ed, do you not think it is enough that it is annoying? Especially if you are short, and standing at the back of the crowd in front of the Mona Lisa (for example), the fact that people are holding their P&Ss or camera phones up above their heads makes it even harder to see. The first time I went to the Louvre, I just gave up on trying to see it. It was exactly like the picture in the OP's link.
    I had the fortune to travel to Paris quite often for work, so I went back to the Louvre, out of the tourist season, during the week, just before closing time, and I had the painting to myself. Most people don't have that luxury.
    I feel that some consideration by the viewers would go a long way to increasing everyone's pleasure. I doubt whether there is any physical harm to the painting, but what is the point of a low quality snapshot and why should people be so selfish?

    cheers
    Pete
     
  12. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    "Enough ?" No, far more than necessary to label these scofflaws as insensitive clods.

    What constructive action would be left open to me? I imagine I could complain to the guards, bringing the infractions to the attention of the guards ... for what that would be worth (they probably already know). I would imagine that TIME would be of importance - it is not likely that these idio ... uh,... that they would be in front of what I wanted to see for more than a few moments.
    I don't think that admission guarantees that I will have an unobstructed view for however as long as I wanted, at any rate.

    Possibly, that quality so lacking in the USAen tourist would be the best course of action: patience! That, too, will pass away.

    I honestly have NO idea, other than it serves as a good reminder to me - to NOT do that!.
     
  13. OP
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    Ross Chambers

    Ross Chambers Member

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    The privilege of careful and incisive viewing seems to be less and less available (in this part of the world, anyway)

    It was easily found when the works on show were less iconic, the touring shows exhibited by the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Australia are so crowded that it's just about impossible to contemplate the works in depth, and it feels more satisfying to buy a book of the artist's paintings.

    These galleries run after hour-no general public viewings, sometimes as prizes in competions.

    Otherwise it seems to be a balance between the opportunity to see the true colours and techniques of the artist from the back of the crowd or to take as much time as you like contemplating a reproduction.

    I can't imagine the disappointment of hoping to see and meditate upon the great works of European, and no doubt American, art through a frame of tourists, school parties and happy snappers.

    I'm pleased to say that we do have a few long standing acquisitions in this country that are not publicised and exploited (Pollock, Bacon) and are subsequently easily viewed, if not easily understood.

    Regards - Ross
     
  14. Pete H

    Pete H Member

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    Sad but true. I buy books or prints too. The problem is that they are nothing like seeing the real thing hanging on the wall: it's like comparing a picture in an APUG gallery on a computer with the real print.

    cheers
    Pete
     
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