Some years ago, the Management and I were on holiday in Paris and went toddling off to the Louvre. The guide book stated that the best plan was to think of the Louvre as about seven museums, and visit just one of them while imagining that the other six were on the other side of Paris. As with many large museums, it is impossible to see everything so I found the guide book advise useful.
So we saw the Moaning Lizzie – from a distance of about twenty metres, as we couldn’t get any closer – then shuffled past the Venus de Milo, and a few other treasures. The Italian Renaissance section was heaving. There were notices everywhere stating that photography was prohibited. Any miscreants who ignored these were wrestled to the ground before being carried off in a tumbril to meet Madame Guillotine.
I soon tired of the crowds and suggested to the Management that we go and find some Dutch Golden Age paintings. Along a corridor and up some stairs and … where is everybody? Not a sinner in the place! I had Vermeer’s Lacemaker to myself (and given the choice between Mornin’, Lizzie and The Lacemaker, I know which one I’d have!) There were no signs in the Dutch galleries, so I asked. ‘Pas de problem, monsewer!’ (it being France) I was told. Clearly the restrictions in the Italian Renaissance galleries were not due to copyright or similar grounds but due to attempts to keep the crowds moving.
One interesting aside is that I had no problem photographing The Lacemaker in its ‘home’ but was not allowed to photograph it during a temporary exhibition in Cambridge last year. Often photography is forbidden at temporary exhibitions with ‘lender’s restrictions’ being quoted. This is one of the questions discussed by Danny Birchall in his survey. Danny also has another blog post discussing this topic. Both posts are worth reading, particularly the survey one.
Here are some of the quotes from Danny’s posts:
“A suggestion, opposed to the general utopian current of capturing and sharing, that photography might be a mildly antisocial activity:
“A lot of visitors do not even ask if photography is permitted, but assume that they have a right to photograph any thing that they wish. Are there any suggested formula for a notice explaining the restrictions especially if other visitors are captured in the shots””
“Photography posted online or in print is neither a substitute for the museum experience, nor threat to attendance.”
“‘Personal’ photographs aren’t kept in lonely handfuls in albums any more waiting for their annual viewing to relatives; they’re published, labelled, tagged and discussed, part of an ongoing flow of conversation involving text and images. Perhaps you could say that ‘interpersonal photography’ has replaced ‘personal’ photography.” (This quote reflects Brett Roger’s comments in yesterday’s post.)
“The results of the survey seem to me to reinforce an almost cruel irony. The museum objects which you are allowed to photograph are often those least in need of personal capture and interpretation (they’re always there, many images of them already exist, they have been catalogued and interpreted) whereas the things that might benefit most from personal photography are those to which there is least access.”
One comment in reply to Danny’s post: “Irony: The Museum for Photography in Berlin strictly prohibits photography within the building. Particularly when the Abisag Tüllmann exhibition features an entire section featuring photos of people in museums and theatres.”