Photography

Our world is being photographed at a pace that would have horrified my mother. She liked the soft focus of memory.

I carry a camera everywhere. I take photographs of the oddest ephemera of Lakeland. Some people have stood and smiled as I stood, camera to eye, next to one of the swan statues. One even laughed out his car window as I took the love photograph. I’ve taken many photographs of signs around Lakeland. My family is resigned to Dad pulling the car into a parking lot to shoot an unusual sign.

I wonder why public organizations want to limit photography? Photographs in a courtroom…not a good idea. I can also see a problem taking pictures at police stations. You wouldn’t want to accidentally photograph an undercover police officer meeting his captain.

Flash photography might be a distraction. I don’t see a problem limiting that. Or asking a irritating photographer to stop. However, I wonder why so many places ban all photography up front. Why do that? It’s free publicity.

Locally, I’ve only had one organization ask to hold my camera. I had entered their building to attend a presentation.

Photography is not permitted, except by prior arrangement. All camera equipment must be left in the checkroom. — Polk Museum of Art

Of course, the guard couldn’t explain why photography was not permitted…except it is the rule. They also didn’t want to be responsible for my expensive camera. We compromised. As I walked quickly to the presentation room — they watched me closely to make sure I didn’t sneak any photographs of their military secrets.

Why not take photographs of art? Or of people looking at art? It’s a part of life that needs to be remembered. You don’t have to allow it every minute the museum is open. Why not allow it during the free Saturday mornings?

(By the way…it isn’t a copyright issue. Copyright doesn’t cover photographs for personal use. It is concerned with reproductions.)

The Polk is probably not the only company that bans photographs in Lakeland. They’re just the first I’ve run across. I’m sure there are other museums that ban photography. But not all of them:

Still photography for personal use is permitted in collection galleries only. No flash or tripods allowed. Videotaping is permitted in the lobby only. No photographs or videotapes may be reproduced, distributed, or sold without permission from the Museum. — Museum of Modern Art

That’s a pretty busy museum. They seem to be able to accommodate photography.

8 thoughts on “Photography

  1. Dear Mr. Welch,

    As a representative of Polk Museum of Art, I would like to apologize for any incovenience that our photography policy caused you. I also apologize that our guard was unable to answer why we have a no photography policy.

    To answer your question, this a copyright issue for us. Although you are correct that copyright does not cover photographs for personal use, we are trying to protect the interests of our living artists. You will notice that at larger museums, photography is generally allowed in permanent collection galleries — particularly of older work that is not copyrighted but is in the public domain. Because most of the work we display is not owned by us and is by living artists, we do not always have the right to allow photography of the works on display.

    In addition, although your intentions are benign, our guards have no way of knowing the reasons someone may have for photographing a piece. Digital cameras are capable of taking reproduction quality images in low-light, and it is easier for us, with our small staff, to institute a blanket policy in order to ensure protection of the artwork on display. This is also why we cannot allow photography at any time, including our free Saturday mornings.

    On a final note, the Museum itself documents the artwork and images of people looking at it for its records and publicity, so “this part of life” will be remembered.

    Again, I apologize for any inconvenience, and I sincerely hope that this experience does not deter you from returning to Polk Museum of Art. As a photography fan, you may be interested to know that we will be hosting an exhibition of 150 master photographs by Ansel Adams starting February 3. The opening reception will be held February 2 at 6pm, and I hope that you will be able to join us for that event. The reception is free to Museum members and $10 for guests. More information is available on our website: http://www.PolkMuseumofArt.org.

    Sincerely,
    Meredith Spresser
    Assistant Director of Marketing and Public Relations

    Polk Museum of Art
    MORE THAN AN ART MUSEUM
    800 East Palmetto Street
    Lakeland, Florida 33801-5529
    863-688-7743 | fax: 863-688-2611
    http://www.PolkMuseumofArt.org

  2. Dear Mr. Welch,

    As a representative of Polk Museum of Art, I would like to apologize for any incovenience that our photography policy caused you. I also apologize that our guard was unable to answer why we have a no photography policy.

    To answer your question, this a copyright issue for us. Although you are correct that copyright does not cover photographs for personal use, we are trying to protect the interests of our living artists. You will notice that at larger museums, photography is generally allowed in permanent collection galleries — particularly of older work that is not copyrighted but is in the public domain. Because most of the work we display is not owned by us and is by living artists, we do not always have the right to allow photography of the works on display.

    In addition, although your intentions are benign, our guards have no way of knowing the reasons someone may have for photographing a piece. Digital cameras are capable of taking reproduction quality images in low-light, and it is easier for us, with our small staff, to institute a blanket policy in order to ensure protection of the artwork on display. This is also why we cannot allow photography at any time, including our free Saturday mornings.

    On a final note, the Museum itself documents the artwork and images of people looking at it for its records and publicity, so “this part of life” will be remembered.

    Again, I apologize for any inconvenience, and I sincerely hope that this experience does not deter you from returning to Polk Museum of Art. As a photography fan, you may be interested to know that we will be hosting an exhibition of 150 master photographs by Ansel Adams starting February 3. The opening reception will be held February 2 at 6pm, and I hope that you will be able to join us for that event. The reception is free to Museum members and $10 for guests. More information is available on our website: http://www.PolkMuseumofArt.org.

    Sincerely,
    Meredith Spresser
    Assistant Director of Marketing and Public Relations

    Polk Museum of Art
    MORE THAN AN ART MUSEUM
    800 East Palmetto Street
    Lakeland, Florida 33801-5529
    863-688-7743 | fax: 863-688-2611
    http://www.PolkMuseumofArt.org

  3. Hello:
    I’ve taught art appreciation for many years. I’ve also had the same frustration that you have had, but maybe I can offer a couple of reasons for the camera issue in museums.

    This applies to almost any fine art museum anywhere.

    Regarding the copyright issue. It’s not so much copyright, but control of what happens with private images. Most of what is hanging on a museum’s wall is not theirs, but on loan and so they are restricted themselves as to the use of the images.

    Usually photography is allowed if, and only if, it is of a collection that the museum itself owns. They are restricted by the owners who have graciously loaned a collection (allowing a different group of people to enjoy art that they might not otherwise see.)

    Secondly, you just can’t trust every stranger that walks into a gallery not to use their flash. Repeated flash (a very intense burst of light) from many cameras over the course of many years will damage some works on paper and definitely older works of art.

    And, speaking as an artist that exhibits in outdoor shows, I don’t allow photography of my work. I can’t know who is simply a photo buff and who is another artist seeking to plagarize my ideas.

    I’ve learned as an art instructor and now as a writer covering exhibitions to save myself a lot of trouble by calling ahead or stopping at the desk when entering to ask the camera policy.

    I hope this helps and I wish you the best with your photography. It is a wonderful way to share the world.
    Sincerely,
    Ed

  4. Hello:
    I’ve taught art appreciation for many years. I’ve also had the same frustration that you have had, but maybe I can offer a couple of reasons for the camera issue in museums.

    This applies to almost any fine art museum anywhere.

    Regarding the copyright issue. It’s not so much copyright, but control of what happens with private images. Most of what is hanging on a museum’s wall is not theirs, but on loan and so they are restricted themselves as to the use of the images.

    Usually photography is allowed if, and only if, it is of a collection that the museum itself owns. They are restricted by the owners who have graciously loaned a collection (allowing a different group of people to enjoy art that they might not otherwise see.)

    Secondly, you just can’t trust every stranger that walks into a gallery not to use their flash. Repeated flash (a very intense burst of light) from many cameras over the course of many years will damage some works on paper and definitely older works of art.

    And, speaking as an artist that exhibits in outdoor shows, I don’t allow photography of my work. I can’t know who is simply a photo buff and who is another artist seeking to plagarize my ideas.

    I’ve learned as an art instructor and now as a writer covering exhibitions to save myself a lot of trouble by calling ahead or stopping at the desk when entering to ask the camera policy.

    I hope this helps and I wish you the best with your photography. It is a wonderful way to share the world.
    Sincerely,
    Ed

  5. Ms. Spresser,

    Thanks for the gracious comment. I hope you understand that the Polk was singled out merely for being my first local experience with this issue. Not because they are a grievous example of the problem.

    I understand you may have some artists who do not want work photographed. However, if an artist didn’t mind, would the museum allow photography in the exhibit?

    I also understand the general concern with reproduction, but wouldn’t it make more sense to charge offenders rather than look at everyone who carries a camera as guilty?

    (As an aside, you have a current collection of works by James Michaels. It was the subject of the first post here at Lakeland Local. If I wanted to make reproductions of his work, I wouldn’t bother taking photographs at the museum. You can get much better copies off his website.)

    I am glad the museum is documenting the exhibits and the people who attend. I couldn’t find any such photographs on your website. How does the museum share that “part of life” with the public?

    As a former news editor, I realize how important publicity is to any museum. As a member of an “emerging information sharing culture” I realize how old publicity paths are being augmented. Just a few museum photographs released under a Creative Commons copyright would help the museum interact with the community. You would retain control and hyperlocal bloggers could easily advertise your exhibits.

    Thanks again for your helpful comments. Please note I turned your URLs into links and removed your email address merely to slow spammers.

  6. Ms. Spresser,

    Thanks for the gracious comment. I hope you understand that the Polk was singled out merely for being my first local experience with this issue. Not because they are a grievous example of the problem.

    I understand you may have some artists who do not want work photographed. However, if an artist didn’t mind, would the museum allow photography in the exhibit?

    I also understand the general concern with reproduction, but wouldn’t it make more sense to charge offenders rather than look at everyone who carries a camera as guilty?

    (As an aside, you have a current collection of works by James Michaels. It was the subject of the first post here at Lakeland Local. If I wanted to make reproductions of his work, I wouldn’t bother taking photographs at the museum. You can get much better copies off his website.)

    I am glad the museum is documenting the exhibits and the people who attend. I couldn’t find any such photographs on your website. How does the museum share that “part of life” with the public?

    As a former news editor, I realize how important publicity is to any museum. As a member of an “emerging information sharing culture” I realize how old publicity paths are being augmented. Just a few museum photographs released under a Creative Commons copyright would help the museum interact with the community. You would retain control and hyperlocal bloggers could easily advertise your exhibits.

    Thanks again for your helpful comments. Please note I turned your URLs into links and removed your email address merely to slow spammers.

  7. Ed,

    Thanks for your comments. It was helpful to see an artist’s point of view.

    I wish I had made my dilemma more plain in my post. In my small way, I am looking to document my view of Lakeland.

    As part of that process, the artworks are less important than the examples of the people viewing and creating art.

    I wish there was an easy way to document the ephemera of Lakeland in cases such as this.

    Thanks again for your comment.

    PS: I’ll mention it in response to your comment because I didn’t make it plain in my post…I didn’t call ahead because I wasn’t looking to take photographs at the exhibits. I had my camera in my shoulder bag. The presentation was merely one of my errands for the day and my camera leaves the house with me each morning. The next time I go to the museum I will make sure to go home first and drop off my camera.

  8. Ed,

    Thanks for your comments. It was helpful to see an artist’s point of view.

    I wish I had made my dilemma more plain in my post. In my small way, I am looking to document my view of Lakeland.

    As part of that process, the artworks are less important than the examples of the people viewing and creating art.

    I wish there was an easy way to document the ephemera of Lakeland in cases such as this.

    Thanks again for your comment.

    PS: I’ll mention it in response to your comment because I didn’t make it plain in my post…I didn’t call ahead because I wasn’t looking to take photographs at the exhibits. I had my camera in my shoulder bag. The presentation was merely one of my errands for the day and my camera leaves the house with me each morning. The next time I go to the museum I will make sure to go home first and drop off my camera.

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