An article in The Art Newspaper, “To ban or not to ban photography” puts forth, once again, the eternal debate of whether to allow photos in the museums or not. This debate has even been more heated with the arrival of the cameras incorporated in the smart phones and tablets.
At first, the prohibition was based on issues of preventive conservation, given that the flash could damage the works of art, but subsequently the prohibition was also linked to the fact of taking snapshots of the works of art for the legal rights regarding the reproduction of the images of these. In our case, for example, the rights are held by the Picasso Administration in Paris governed by the heirs of Pablo Picasso. For this reason all the works that appear in our spaces, either online or offline, carry a footnote with the credits of the work, if possible, in various languages.
There are other cases, as the article indicates, in which the museums do hold the image rights of their collection, but not of the works on loan and this leads to doubts and ambiguities among the visitors and security staff of therooms or galleries. Now they not only have to keep watch over the people with cameras, but also with mobiles, at the same time as trying not to confuse them with audio-guides, so as to preserve the physical and intellectual integrity of the works.
Without wanting to enter into debate about to what extent these images are used for commercial aims or not, and if they should appear under the license of Creative Commons so as to facilitate their reuse depending on the conditions, what is true is that the indiscriminate reuse of photographs (be it in museums, on trips or in everyday life) poses an educational and at the same time philosophical debate.
The article of The Art Newspaper highlighted a study of the Fairfield University, in Connecticut, which concluded that, in the case of the museums and art centres, the visitors who take photographs remember fewer works of art and fewer details of these compared with those who don’t do so, given that they are subconsciously assuming that it is not necessary to remember information that can afterwards be consulted with a couple of clicks.
In a world so saturated with information it is difficult to be able to remember everything and in reality we very rarely have time, afterwards, to look again at the huge numbers of photographs that are taken, and therefore a lot of information doesn’t end up being “seen” or assimilated. In this sense, it is possibly more important to provide us with the resources that allow us to find the information in the fastest and most precise way possible, but taking into account that there are moments and information that require us to make more careful attention and are more important to remember.
Finally, beyond the field of learning, we should also notice the fashion of the selfies (in all their variants including the #MuseumSelfie) that encourage us to take photos of ourselves with or without filters to spread them on the net. In the cultural case, although it should be recognised that there is a certain degree of positive popularisation and rejuvenating of the centres, they also make us consider to what extent the photograph is used as a trophy just to prove that we have been in a certain place in front of the online community itself.