Update: the saga continues.
Update 2: Wil Wheaton proves my point.
Several of the attractions that we visited in Europe last year (e.g. Palace of Holyroodhouse, Westminster Abbey among others) had explicit no-photography declarations upon entering the premise. When it comes to tourist attractions, I’m not sure I understand the limitations, but since I’m on private property, I respected the request every time.
My employer has an explicit policy of no photography on premises, with a process that must be followed to get allowances, and I respect that. And when we visited Ben and Jerry’s in Vermont a couple of years ago, the part of the tour that showed the production floor had a “No Photography” disclaimer. I totally get that–don’t want your competitors studying photos, trying to copy your production process.
Today I was a bit surprised to see signs like the one above surrounding the work of a sculptor at the Columbus Arts Festival. Knowing my rights in a public space, I walked up and took the picture of the sign above, and within a second, I was confronted by someone quoting the sign, “No Pictures Please”. He was not the sculptor. He was there to be the heavy–admonishing anyone in the crowd wielding a camera. When he approached me, I gave him the (true) explanation that I had only taken a picture of the sign. He didn’t bug me any further.
I brooded over the futility and the stupidity of it. Here’s an artist making visually VERY interesting artwork. A photograph of it is not a copy of it, and doesn’t even really make a good representation of it. A photo could, at best, be a “oh look what I found” kind of documentary moment.
But what about copycats? Like with the Ben and Jerry’s factory floor? Sorry dude, it just isn’t that original. And my pictures of your sculptures don’t describe your process for making them.
Above, the artist (in the cowboy hat) among his works.
So I stepped back from the art, and took pictures through the crowd. Just because I could. I desperately wished I had my wide angle lens. I desperately wished I was a confrontational asshole. I imagined walking right up to the sculptures, and snapping pictures until the artist and the heavy were red in the face. But I didn’t. On a public street at a public event, I would have every right to take pictures until they popped.
Instead, I got close with my iPhone. I fired up the FastCamera app, set it to shoot 4 pictures a second, and I mingled with the crowed, and slowly walked by, holding my phone at hip level. And this is what I mean by the futility of it–the ubiquitous camera phone means that you cannot prevent photographs. You can ask that people not take pictures (at least they said “Please”) but when you’re in a public space, that request is a meaningless as “Please don’t walk near me.”
The other thing that kills me about this is that it completely ignores the power of social/digital media. Imagine someone like Wil Wheaton (who happened to be within a mile of where I took these pictures), with his 2 million plus twitter followers, posting a picture of your artwork with a “Damn, this is cool” and your name. Or a link to your web site. How many sales would that generate? How much buzz would happen? Or, how likely is Wil to think “Oh, jeez, I thought people would like this, but I better not take a picture ’cause he might get pissy.”
“No photos Please”. Yeah right. Then don’t show your artwork in public.