Thomas Hawk's Digital Connection

Sunday, November 25, 2007

On Renegade Photography

Gone Again

This is a photograph of a sculpture by artist Olafur Eliasson currently on display at the SF Museum of Modern Art. The SF Moma does not allow photography in their museum. I took this photograph anyways. I've actually got a bunch more of what I'm calling renegade photography from my visit to the SF Moma on Friday.

This was the first time that I'd been to the SF Moma since 2004 when I went to see photographer Larry Sultan's show "The Valley." As much as I love contemporary art, since visting the SF Moma in 2004 I found it just too difficult to support an institution that did not allow photography. The de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor, and the Oakland Museum of California (by contrast to the SF Moma) all do allow photography in their permanent collections. In the past I'd looked at the SF Moma's right to not allow photography as their right and as my right the right not to go and support them.

Last week though I decided that I was going to go back to the SF Moma after a three year hiatus to see Jeff Wall's brilliant photography. I've admired Wall's work and wanted to see in real life the large sized lightboxed photographs that he has on display. (These photos are very much worth seeing by the way if you can make it to the SF Moma).

Rather than simply miss Jeff Wall's work due to my dogmatic protest against the SF Moma's anti-photography policy, I decided that I would go, but that I'd shoot anyways. Several times I was asked not to photograph and I'd comply when asked only to whip out the camera and begin shooting again in the next gallery. It did make for more difficult and challenging shooting (often times shooting blind as the camera hung around my neck to avoid detection), but I definitely got some interesting shots. The photo above is just one of many more that you'll see uploaded and published by me in the days ahead.

This recent trip to the SF Moma has made me rethink my aversion to places where photography is not allowed. I think I'll be going to a lot more of them in the future, I'll just be collecting my own style of renegade photographs in the process. At some point I'll probably use these photographs to construct a renegade photography collage of sorts.

I'm sure this rubs some people the wrong way, that I'd purposely disrespect an institution's right to restrict photography in a private place. But I believe that art should be more open. That it should be more public. I believe that as a non-profit for the general public's artistic enlightenment, that the SF Moma should have a more tolerant photography policy and I believe that renegade photography is a good thing and will create a more vibrant and beautiful world for us all to share in.

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15 Comments:

Paulie said...

In Seattle they tried to get me to check my camera bag since photography was not permitted. When I told them that I'd rather give away my $13 admittance and not see their art over handing over my camera gear they let me in as long as I promised not to shoot. I was a good boy and kept the gear in my bag.

9:24 AM  
Rob said...

Where was this sculpture located? According to the museum's site, they DO allow photography in their collection galleries.

Cameras
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.

10:30 AM  
Jake said...

Wrong MoMA, rob.

11:05 AM  
Jake said...

By the way, TH, we're making fun of you over in DMU.

11:48 AM  
Rob said...

Oops, sorry about that. I thought I followed the link from Thomas' post. Here's the SF MoMA's policy on cameras:

Cameras
Photography is not permitted in the galleries. Flash photography is permitted only with a handheld camera in the Atrium.

1:39 PM  
MarkA said...

Interestingly, under UK law, if you did this on private property such as a gallery that has requested that you not shoot - your presence on the property actually converts to trespass and they can have you arrested! :(

M

2:19 PM  
Cate said...

ha- i loved this exhibit and was admonished for shooting too!

the jeff wall stuff was awesome.

2:43 PM  
dibss said...

No wonder establishments are getting tired of people with their cameras and feeling it is their god given right to shoot anything and everything. It is people like you that give the rest of us that abide by the rules a bad name.

I have a approached many faciliteis that have similar rules and been allowed to shoot at some while others have stuck to their guns. I will always respect their rights as I would hope they would respect mine.

I certainly don't see this as a "win" by breaking the rules. The long term affect of this sort of actions is going to result in even more stringent rules but then I guess they wouldn't apply to you either.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous said...

I think that this approach guts your principled stand against people harassing photographers who shoot in public places where they are allowed by law to shoot. By doing this, you are saying "although I have unlimited rights to photograph in public and will protest vehemently if you violate those rights, I also think that I have unlimited rights to photograph on your private property as well. Therefore, there should be no difference between public and private property because you can't make rules against me doing what I want."

Given your lack of interest in laws protecting people's property rights, I may have to come on a photowalk and dip in your bag (if that is somehow different, please explain)

12:07 AM  
Anonymous said...

a55hat! meh.

7:27 AM  
BL said...

the picture doesnt come up

9:07 AM  
Anonymous said...

Sometimes it distracts from other visitors' enjoyment of the artwork when people are taking photos.

10:58 AM  
Thom said...

I've got to go with dibss and the anonymous commenter here. How exactly is this any different from someone who decides they feel that their concerns over privacy and security trump your right to shoot in a public place?

By deciding that the rules only apply when they are to your benefit you will give people greater ammunition to curb photographers' rights.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous said...

Wow, that's pretty pathetic. I think you've hit a new low with this one. Have you ever heard of ethics? You might want to work on that one a bit more. And if doing it wasn't bad even, bragging about it like a little child and boasting about how you're going to do it more often is even worse. And you're the CEO of a photography company? LOL.

At some point this kind of thing is eventually going to catch up with you in one way or another, it certainly says something about your character and your complete disrespect for and abuse of the rights of others. And I agree with the other posters that this totally undermines your position on public photography, since that is entirely based on "the law says I can, so I will despite the fact you may not want me to" because obviously you don't respect the law either -- which, as I'm sure you're more than aware, makes it perfectly reasonable to not permit photography on private property. You making photographs where you are not permitted (by pretty much the same laws you regularly cite for street photography I might add) is no different than those building managers who come out and try prevent you from taking photographs where you are actually permitted to. You are no different than them, its so obviously hypocritical I'm surprised more people haven't called you on it.

And I totally agree with another commenter who mentioned that its also about the experience of other museum goers, but I guess you're too self-absorbed and self-righteous to even grasp that concept.

Bottom line is it's the museums decision to permit photography or not, not yours. You can choose to not go, but this post is frankly kind of sad IMHO, and is really just a poor reflection on you and ends up giving all of us photographers a bad name. So, thanks for that.

5:49 PM  
Roger Krueger said...

If we only photograph where we're allowed, large parts of modern life will go unrecorded. I find that entirely unacceptable.

Yeah, yeah, having everybody do it might get ugly. But having nobody do it would be uglier.

7:53 AM  

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