Should Photography be Allowed in Galleries?

For my Gold Arts Award Arts Issue, I have chosen the topic 'Should Photography be Allowed to be Taken in Museums and Art Galleries?'. This is when you go on a visit to arts and heritage venue and photography is banned in an exhibition.

I chose this topic because as a former Art & Design student I have come across banned photography in gallery exhibitions more than one. We will look at why people like to take photography and the reasons why it shouldn't take place in these wonderful cultural organisations.

Firstly, students use photography as research for their coursework by taking photographs of exhibition information on the walls, the artworks along with the information about that piece and a photograph of the exhibition space in the room. This is one form of primary research to do during an art project. Some people might think why not just sketch instead, but even though observational drawings are also another source of primary research it really isn't the same as taking photographs. This is because with drawings you can get a likeness of what is there but not the accuracy.

Art students might also need the photographs that was taken from at the gallery to do a PowerPoint presentation in front of their group, so using as much visual content in the presentations is necessary over text to get more of an understanding of the inspiration and influence that will be developed in their own artwork.

When you find out that photography is banned in an exhibition it's normally one of two reasons. The first with the potential of causing light damage to the artworks when using flash (which I always have turned off while in galleries). This is so that they can preserve remarkable pieces that they keep in their collections. And it is also banned because artists that exhibit their artworks at arts and heritage organisations don't want visitors to photograph the work. This is because they don't want people to claim it as their own work - if they would (copyright). If anyone would take a clear photograph of the piece, print them and sell them as prints. And there could be more reasons why it has been banned that hasn't been stated. Instead of taking photographs of individual pieces, the Front of House staff may let you take photographs of the room which is the space of the room. People may say if you want to remember your trip to the venue, then why not buy something from the shop such as a book, postcards or prints of the artworks. But most often they don't sell the print of the artwork that you liked the most in the the exhibition that you have seen.

Next, people taking photographs in an exhibition normally post them on social media. This could help attract more visitors to come to the art galleries especially if it is a big touring exhibition. Although, people think that seeing the photographs posted on social media doesn't give them the feel of an experience as they have not seen it for themselves when looking them. Whereas, some people like to look at others social media posts to remind them what shows to visit.

Also when people taking photographs, others that are enjoying the artwork themselves feel that the photographer is in the way so they can't see the piece. But it is equally annoying when the photographer feels that other members of the public are in the way when capturing the piece of work or artwork information. 

Finally, photographs are needed on exhibition review websites to help give interest to the page and so that it helps the audience that is reading it know what they are talking about and maybe give an idea of what the exhibition is like before visiting.

In conclusion, taking photographs helps with research and shows people what's currently on at the venue and helps people visit galleries and museums when seen on social media platforms. On the other hand, taking photographs with flash can cause light damage to some artworks and there is copyright set by artist exhibiting their work.

What do you think?

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Amelia Hall

Amelia Hall

Young Associate at Curious Minds

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