Aug 04 2009

Photographing museums

Published by at under people

The New York Times had a great article yesterday on a longstanding phenomenon that is noticeable to anyone walking around a museum: The prevalence of people photographing the paintings, and the paucity of people viewing them. It’s really an interesting behavior, considering that you can probably find an image of most of these paintings online already.

I think it speaks to the way museums are viewed today. They aren’t so much a collection of beautiful objects that people can spend an afternoon enjoying, as they are a place to tick off of a travel itinerary. People I think generally feel a time pressure, they’re in a city they don’t live in, and they don’t want to come back from the Louvre and forget to see the Mona Lisa. Hence, you have to get the audioguide to make sure you see “the good stuff”. Do you go to a museum to say you’ve seen something, or to enjoy a beautiful object? It’s this tension between limited time and trying to tick items off a list that I think troubles the museum experience. We don’t spend enough time in the museums and galleries in our home towns.

The craziest version of this though, is the camcordering of museums. I can’t imagine people reviewing the tape afterwards of a bunch of inanimate objects. It seems crazy, especially because the camcorderer is typically looking at the viewscreen and not the glorious painting or sculpture in front of them.

This reminds me of a photo from when we were in the Louvre 8 years ago. We decided it was more interesting to take a picture of the crowd of people, than the painting itself.

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