On why some historic places and museums ban photography.

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by laurie_t, Oct 15, 2016.

  1. An interesting article on the author's considerations about taking photographs in historic places, and museums and art galleries. LINK
    Personally , I find banning photography in or of things that could be considered world treasures (to one degree or another) wrong. Especially if they are owned by public entities.
    However I don't agree with all his premisses. Flash, as per the study he cites, may not do damage to art/historical works, but they sure are annoying and distracting for people trying to enjoy the art work.
    I also think adhering to copyright rules (imperfect as they are) is important - and art galleries etc may have a legal duty to do so. But a bronze-age artefact, for example, won't be subject to copyright.
    Here in Poland they have a rather relaxed attitude to photography in such places - i.e., yes, but without flash. Of course modern artwork is usually excluded from this rule.
    I wouldn't mind paying a small, extra fee to take photographs as this would help often struggling museums - but in many of the places I have gone that have this rule the entry fee is high and the photography fee exorbitant.
    Anyway, I post the article for your enjoyment and consideration.
  2. I don't think you should photograph the art work. Although the rule doesn't allow it I think photographing the museum itself is OK.
  3. My understanding is that there are three reasons: a
    conservative approach to conservation (better safe
    than sorry) with regard to art works; a desire to
    make the gallery experience enjoyable to all; and a
    need to sell postcards and books because the
    profit helps them survive.
  4. Many items in public art museums and historic places (e.g., Mt. Vernon) are on loan, and the owners may stipulate that no photographs or reproductions may be made. The museum itself may have a fiduciary interest in selling reproductions, but many allow non-commercial photography for private use (e.g., The Smithsonian Institute). I recall that photography was allowed in The Prado, Madrid, except for a certain gallery which had art on loan. Rules in various European churches vary from non-restricted, to no tripods, to no private photography (you are routed through their gift shop). Oxford allowed no photography in Christ's Church, but it was okay at other colleges.
    I think you should respect private property and the wishes of owners. I draw the line at photography on public streets. I have been confronted by various store owners, claiming "copyrights" on their store fronts. So far it has only amounted to bluster. Ex-mayor Daley of Chicago claimed the entire skyline was copyrighted. That went nowhere. It's been years since anyone has been confronted for shooting "Cloud Gate", otherwise known as "The Bean."
  5. Many art galleries around here forbid photography. I don't think it is because they are afraid someone is going to steal an idea and reproduce but rather its because of the general pain in the a-- some photographers can be.
  6. SCL


    Thisis a kind of touchy subject, one which I am somewhat ambivilent about. I don't agree that unrestricted photography, especially on private property or of private property is appropriate. In fact, I was recently surprised at Chicago's Art Institute, which had a massively attended Van Gogh special exhibition, allowed unrestricted (but no-flash) photography....sometimes it was almost impossible to see the works from all the smartphones being held up over peoples' heads, and some people were oblivious to the flash prohibition. Likewise I find it distasteful (pardon the pun) when I see people (especially using flash) photographing their meals at nicer restaurants. But back to museums & places of historical interest, I acknowledge the desire to provide some modicum of self support thru gift shop sales, but I harken back to outside shots, when taken from public places as being ok. Like Edward, I've occasionally been confronted by store owners, but I think in those cases it may have had to do with nefarious transactions being captured on the property, or somebody thought I was some sort of private investigator.
  7. Busy galleries/historic sites often do not allow photography because photographers impede the movement of people and
    make the whole experience unpleasant. Nowadays though it is almost impossible to successfully ban photography as
    only strict, over-the-top discipline can stop people with phones, but people with real cameras can still be shouted at. I take
    pictures in galleries in the Northeast with little problem, and the guards tend not to make scene if you are subtle, but if you
    look like you are trying to make a good reproduction then this is usually not on.
  8. One museum I was at required a free permit for photography. I was later asked to see it, when it was covered up, maybe by my camera.
    Most seem nice about it for older (out of copyright) pieces. The flash restriction goes back to flashbulb days, when you might have damage from an exploding flashbulb. But yes, also it is distracting to others. In the film days, with faster film (I remember High Speed Ektachrome) and holding as still as possible, I could do pretty well. Now with high ISO digital cameras, there isn't much excuse. Besides, with flash you will tend to get a reflection, especially of paintings.
  9. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Sometimes one needs to take a photo to show the museum experience not just the works of art:
    The Hermitage in St. Petersburg. It is nice to be able to show this young Russian girl hard at work.
  10. I remember, they allowed taking pictures in the Metropolitan museum (New York, Central Park), except flashes. Someone told me that the flash can damage the paintings. I saw artists redraw them too, and people taking flash photos of the dinosaurs and the Egyptian statues.
  11. Deeply flawed article that amounts to no more than an over-developed sense of entitlement.
  12. Interesting Topic




  13. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I often rather enjoy photographing in museums and galleries- not to photograph the exhibits ( though they may appear incidentally in my pictures) but the structure of the gallery itself is sometimes very interesting, especially the contemporary buildings, and the way people respond to them.
    For myself, if its a building I where might want to photograph and there's a blanket ban, I will choose not to go in. I won't support, pay or buy things from a church, stately home, museum or gallery that prevents me from photographing. I can understand why they might want to ban flash, tripods in interiors, selfie-sticks . I'm happy to pay a reasonable sum for a photography permit and accept that I won't ever get a property release.
  14. The National Gallery in London allows photography without flash in many galleries, but where paintings are on loan there
    is no photography, presumably because that's what the owning organisation wants. You really wouldn't want flash guns
    popping off around the National Gallery's Da Vinci cartoon for fear of light damage.
    Interestingly, Prague Castle and some other places around there only allows photography is you buy a ticket.
  15. PapaTango

    PapaTango Itinerant Philosopher

    One of the things I enjoy about museums is photographing in them--often not broad spaces, nor entire works. Rather, there are smaller elements of a sculpture or element that I prefer. My gallery here titled "Glass Menagerie" is an example of that--all shot at the Corning Museum of Glass. They are all parts of much larger works or displays--and some are heavily modified in PS from their original presentation.
    Many decades ago I worked in a museum that discouraged photography. The reason? The gift shop sold prints, postcards, and SLIDES of things. The decision was purely economically driven. Now as to decorum, some 'photographers' are simply obnoxious asshats. You would think that they were on a professional photo shoot--and mill about and work in a way that is disruptive to the contemplative space that many museums strive to create. The worst of all of it is the smartphone crowd with their selfies. I would like to go on about what I think of most of them--but the word filter here on PN would make most of the sentence look like cartoon cursing... :)
    A prohibition on photography in a venue will never alter my interest in touring and enjoying it. Whilst the chance to add to my photographic catalog is nice--the ultimate purpose of the visit is for my own enjoyment.
  16. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Patrick, I agree. If you want a nice print of the Mona Lisa, go to the gift shop. Otherwise, photo the experience:

  17. PapaTango

    PapaTango Itinerant Philosopher

    @James. That knot of people reminds me of what I saw around the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian, or the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. The latter was the worst--and the selfie sticks a real navigational hazard. It makes one quick to understand why these things are prohibited in many venues. :)
    The worst public behavior I ever have seen was not in a museum--but at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. Between the smartphone asshats and the small number of foreign tourists SHOVING others out of their way to get their trophy photo and being very LOUD and obnoxious--it was a clown circus.
  18. These photography laws are unenforceable. With today's technology, a small camera can be concealed anywhere, or someone could simply pull out their smart phone, appear to be checking their messages, and silently and inconspicuously snap a pic. No one would be the wiser. Unless the museums are willing to instigate full body pat downs and other invasive searches, as I said, this cannot be enforced.
  19. These photography laws are unenforceable. With today's technology, a small camera can be concealed anywhere, or someone could simply pull out their smart phone,​
    Many that do allow photography, only allow it for personal use without special permission. If you never show it to anyone, there isn't much loss.

    Otherwise, some places disallow it because of the inconvenience to others. If you stop and wait for everyone to get out of the way, you slow down the flow. Last I remember from years ago, the tour of the White house has that rule.

    Even with a regular camera, you can usually get away with it, as long as you don't hold it up to your eye. Use a wide angle, can't miss, lens. Unless it is especially quiet, no-one will hear. (At least in the rangefinder days.)
  20. The gift shop sold prints, postcards, and SLIDES of things.​
    It seems that slides are gone from most gift shops. It used to be that places like national parks sold slide sets. Some years ago, all those disappeared. Maybe now DVD slide shows, though.
  21. In California museums I've visited the general rules are no flash, understandable, and photography is allowed of displays from the museum's collection. Generally, photos won't be allowed of private and traveling collections and that's probably based on copy-write issues, but seems to be the norm. I've not really seen photographers, unless using flash, lesson the viewing experience, or at least nothing that was overtly visible. Not sure what the problem is.
  22. Hi,
    Many years ago photography was allowed in Theodore Roosevelt's home in Oyster Bay, LI, NY. Then one day someone broke in and stole some valuable guns from his gun collection. They must of photographed it and knew exactly which ones to grab. Since that event photography was no longer allowed and what was left of the gun collection is no longer on display. Wish I took a photo of it. I shot just about everything else including his Teddy bears:
    I don't think those guns were ever recovered. But I'm sure that circumstances in museums and other historical places probably don't allow photos for similar reasons. Under certain circumstances you can get permission. I shot wedding photos in a historical home and permits are obtainable for motion picture shoots.

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