Paris, Day 2: The Louvre – Cameras Allowed

As I walked through gallery after gallery in The Louvre in search of the European and African art collections, I couldn’t help notice that many of people ahead of me were taking photos of the artwork. Most didn’t even look at a painting long enough. They just got within camera range, snapped and moved on to the next one.

Granted, with the size of The Louvre — I’m sure I could visit every day for a month and not see the same collections twice — the objective for many visitors is to capture as much as possible in the time that they have. But, to me, it just waters down the experience.

Sculpture from the African Art collection at The Louvre - Maynefoto

I couldn’t help thinking about it for several hours after — and it comes back to mind each time since that I’ve been to an art gallery or a museum.

In this time when cell phones and digital cameras are so ubiquitous, it shouldn’t have been surprising but it was.

In thinking about what I’d write in this post, I thought about a comment Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, made recently at a talk at the New York Public Library. To paraphrase, he said CDs and computers make a large collection of music more easily accessible but flattens the sound.

The same could probably be said about taking photos of works of art. By relying on a camera instead of the eye to interpret and record the image, we reduce it to one dimension. Sure, it’s accessible — we can load it on to our computers, print a copy, share it with our friends, etc., but no camera I know of can capture the subtle qualities, like the light or tiny brush strokes that the eye can pick up, or the feeling that some works of art can evoke in a viewer.

Seeing this “drive-by viewing” had me thinking about how we engage the things around us and how technology is allowing us to breeze through our lives without slowing down or stopping to notice, to take stock.

Having worked with creative people in different fields, I’m acutely aware of the right of ownership whether of a manuscript, photograph, song or painting and how easy it is for us to ‘own’ a knock-off or a copy of the original. I’m also well aware that some museums, like The Louvre, allow visitors to take photos (sans flash).

Maybe it’s not such a big deal to allow cameras in museums since most of their artists are dead and maybe they recognize that a lot of us take photos on our digital cameras and never print them.

What do you think?

7 comments on “Paris, Day 2: The Louvre – Cameras Allowed

  1. I know we do but with technology, we’re doing it so much more. You’d think we’d slow down some — on vacation, right? It’s be fabulous to have more time, yes but we’d only add more things to our lists!
    Thanks, Elizabeth.

  2. You touch a lot of points here and I think a lot of us are guilty of drive-by viewing… especially when we go on vacation and try to fit everything in on a short schedule. If we can review our shot later to re-capture the museum moment then it’s not a bad thing… It is nice though to have the luxury of more time. I love your photo. 🙂

  3. I spent an hour walking around the David in Florence, being amazed at the detail and “spirit” of the statue – the artist’s hand in the statue. Try capturing that in a shot of the David… even a hundred shots of David. The atmosphere, the smell of the marble, the feel of the air, the feel of the clothes on your body, the play of light… so much cannot be captured by the lens. But we still try…

  4. I think it’s alright to capture something with a camera and appreciate it later especially if one doesn’t have much time. But we should equally appreciate, or probably more, those closer to our senses. (Sometimes, I also wish I could take photos of things and places cameras are not allowed so I could share them with family and friends. But I also respect the perspectives of artists.) Thanks for sharing this post.

  5. WOW, *that* must have been quite the experience! You were fortunate to be able to do that.
    You’re right — that’s why we take our cameras with us everywhere we go so we can try to bottle the memories.
    I’ll be checking out your luxury HK photos!

  6. You’re welcome, Dahlia.
    Yes, sometimes we do want to capture images so we can share and thankfully, we now have the technology to do that in an instant, if we choose.
    Thanks for the visit,

Comments are closed.