museum adventures

De Young in San Francisco

De Young in San Francisco


To continue with my insider/outsider perspective of the art world theme, and to honor the photo from yesterday’s post, (which was taken at Mass MoCA) I want to share some photographs that I have taken in some of my favorite places to photograph: museums. There are not very many museums in the world that will let you take photographs inside them. But there are a few. Taking pictures is is a way to have a more interactive experience when I go into a museum. Instead of just being an observer, I become participant. I go from outsider to insider. But, in the end, I feel even more like an outsider.

My interest in this activity started when I was nineteen years old and visited the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The Musée d’Orsay was a railway station (built at the turn of the 20th century) that opened as a museum in 1986. It is a beautiful space, and when I first visited there, they allowed photography. In those days, I used a 35 mm Nikon FG. I have since lost all those photos (they were actually stollen from my darkroom drawer in college). I loved photographing the art, with the light glowing down from the magnificent dome glass ceiling. I returned to the museum last year with my French aunt, (twenty years later) excited to re-experience the museum with my digital camera, and found out that they no longer allowed photography. Needless to say, I was very disappointed. Since then, one of my other favorite museums to take photos in is Mass MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.) My parents live an hour away, and every year when I visit them, we make a family pilgrimage. Taking photos there has become a big part of the ritual, especially between me and my brother.


You may ask: is this intellectual property infringement? And the honest answer is: I don’t know. But I do find it interesting to think about: seeing art, and the space that contains it, from a different person’s perspective. Not necessarily as the artist, or the museum, intended. Does that photograph of art become art or is it a sneaky reproduction?