Camera Bans in Museums Violate the Concept of Art!


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Castle in Germany: No photography of any kind allowed inside

In a number of museums, cameras and filming are not allowed – and the restriction is not limited only to flash cameras. Every attempt I make at grasping the logic in this results in failure. In some instances, it is argued that if people have had a chance to see what the place looks like in film or photograph, the motivation to visit in person will be gone. Yet these museums allow film crews of travel television shows to visit – eliminating any validity in this argument. If being able to see the place in advance in photo and film reduces peoples’ desire to visit then why not restrict ALL photo and filming? On the contrary, I think being able to see a “teaser,” which is all a photo or film can give you – it will never be quite the same as an in-person visit – only makes people even more motivated to visit.

Enjoying a destination on film or photograph is a very worthwhile experience. I get tremendous pleasure out of binge-watching “Rick Steves’ Europe” or thumbing through picture books of exciting destinations. But comparing that experience to an actual visit is akin to comparing apples to oranges. They are not the same thing.

It has put a great damper on my experience visiting a place to find out I cannot capture the experience in photos and film. Sure, I can “remember” what I saw, but not in the same vivid way I can relive the experience watching video I filmed live. Memories may last, but memories fade. That which is digitally captured can be enjoyed and shared throughout a lifetime.

The enjoyment and sharing of digital media which captures our travel memories inspires and promotes travel. ALL museums should be open to allowing cameras, and should also educate their staff on camera equipment. More than once I’ve had museum staff think my stabilizer was a “selfie stick” and ban it for that reason, because selfie sticks are not allowed. This only further displays a lack of understanding of the photographic arts, and appreciation of it as an art form. If anyone should appreciate an art form, shouldn’t it be a museum?

Yes, it’s true that some flash photography can damage sensitive works of fine art. For this reason, I can understand a ban specifically on flash photography. Other forms of photography should be allowed in these cases.

Video and film of travel excites the sense of sight, and, in the case of film, sound. But it cannot capture that which we experience with our other senses. We can never truly be immersed in a place without exploring it in person, first hand. Photos and film, while a very enjoyable indulgence, and great introduction to the places we are considering visiting, can never replace actually going. Why do so many museums feel threatened that this will happen?

I think it’s more about museums making money in their gift shops than a concern about losing future visitors or damaging the art. The one argument that probably does hold true is that if you took a picture of something in the museum, you are less likely to buy the postcard. But if this is the concern then why not just offer a photography “pass” for an additional charge?

Camera bans in museums disrespect the whole concept of art. Great art promotes interactivity with its viewer: reaction, response, discussion, and sharing. It’s all about the iconography or message. Art is not ultimately meant to be hidden away and forgotten, but exposed and contemplated, and endowed with as many divergent viewpoints as possible! Ironic that so many museums don’t “get” the whole point of art (or, worse, don’t care)!

I want to challenge the museums that currently ban photography and filming to reconsider. Readers please leave your comments below whether you agree or disagree!

Back to my travels soon – I’m still away from my home office (and most of my photography equipment and media) attempting to sell this house out of state, where what I anticipated to be a 3 day venture has morphed into over 3 weeks!

Hope you are having a great new year!

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