Photographs in the museums: yes or no?

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.

To be or not to be_2

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.

Cristina Martín

Related links
To ban or not to ban photography
Creative Commons
What is #MuseumSelfie Day?

  • Pilar
    July 18, 2014

    Me parece muy interesante esta entrada, puede generar muchos debates, porque por ejemplo en muchos museos está prohibido el uso de teléfonos móviles, pero…¿y si el museo tiene una app? ¿cómo se soluciona esta cuestión? ¿móviles para unos usos si y para otros no?

  • Cristina Martin
    July 18, 2014

    En efecto Pilar, los nuevos usos que se les puede dar a los móviles dentro de las salas de los museos hacen replantearse las normativas existentes. No obstante, cada centro es un caso distinto y habrá que ver como se van articulando en el cambiante entorno tecnológico. Muchas gracias por tu aportación.

  • Anna Guarro
    July 21, 2014

    Adjunto un article sobre mirar i recordar a través del dibuix i/o la fotografia:
    Why you should stop taking pictures on your phone – and learn to draw

  • Conxa Rodà
    August 1, 2014

    Certament és un debat obert ben viu i interessant.
    Des del punt de vista dels visitants, costa entendre per què encara a molts museus que no són d’art contemporani no és permès de fer fotografies.
    Tots recordem l’enrenou quan el Museu d’Orsay va decidir al 2010 prohibir fer fotos i la contra-resposta del col·lectiu “Orsay Commons”.

    I com a bona pràctica aquest 2014, d’aplicació als museus nacionals francesos, recomano “Tous photographes! La charte des bonnes pratiques dans les établissements patrimoniaux” del Ministeri de Cultura i Comunicació francès!-La-charte-des-bonnes-pratiques-dans-les-etablissements-patrimoniaux

    Estableix pautes per fer fotos de manera cívica sense molestar altres visitants ni perjudicar les obres.
    Com sempre, la gràcia rau en contemporitzar llibertat dels usuaris de fer i compartir imatges, amb el respecte a drets i obres.

    Estic fermament convençuda que les iamtges dels nostres museus i col·leccions que els visitants publiquen són un molt bon element de difusió i una via excel·lent per arribar a nous públics.

  • Ane
    August 6, 2014

    Se ha dicho y escrito mucho sobre este tema. ¿El flash daña las obras de arte? ¿Por qué no se pueden hacer fotos sin flash? ¿y los derechos legales de reproducción? ¿no es absurdo fotografiar un cuadro? ¿distrae? Pero indistintamente de estas cuestiones, es verdad que muchas veces es irresistible sacar la cámara dentro de un museo y con un poco de arte se pueden conseguir escenas verdaderamente maravillosas… por ejemplo:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha: *