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The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction
August 26, 2010 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Pictures of people taking pictures of the Mona Lisa (non-Flash but still annoying interface warning)
posted by silby (55 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
non-Flash

Obviously
posted by Tavern at 7:55 AM on August 26, 2010 [13 favorites]


Can't get the site to load, but I took a picture of the Mona Lisa once in 1998 so I wanted to see if I was on there. And yes I know you aren't supposed to, but I am kind of a jerk and just do whatever I want.
posted by ND¢ at 7:58 AM on August 26, 2010


Site's dead.
posted by sanko at 7:59 AM on August 26, 2010


I did this one time. When I was a photography student in college, I spent an entire Saturday in New Orleans taking pictures of people who were taking pictures of the Cathedral.

There are much better ways to spend a Saturday in New Orleans.
posted by ColdChef at 8:00 AM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's one big reason to avoid tourist icons like the "Mona Lisa" like the plague (and the Louvre, for that matter) and discover some unexplored corner of Paris instead.
posted by blucevalo at 8:11 AM on August 26, 2010


Can't get the site to load, but I took a picture of the Mona Lisa once in 1998 so I wanted to see if I was on there. And yes I know you aren't supposed to, but I am kind of a jerk and just do whatever I want.

Are a unicorn, perchance?
posted by NoMich at 8:15 AM on August 26, 2010


I'll never understand how the Mona Lisa became the iconic 'great work of art' so many believe it to be. It probably doesn't make my top 1,000 list.
posted by rocket88 at 8:17 AM on August 26, 2010


You should only avoid the Louvre if A) you hate beautiful things or B) you've already been there a bunch of times. While out of the way places (and museums) are plentiful in Paris, and well worth discovering, there is a reason the Louvre is the Louvre. It's collection is amazing.
posted by oddman at 8:19 AM on August 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


Can't see the site, but is it anything like the pictures of people posing at the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
posted by briank at 8:24 AM on August 26, 2010


I'll never understand how the Mona Lisa became the iconic 'great work of art' so many believe it to be.

"I may not know art, but I know what I don't like."

Inertia. In Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, a pretty but unremarkable town, there is a lighthouse. At some point someone took a photo of it, a second party saw the photo and later visited Peggy's Cove, and decided to photograph the lighthouse as well. And then... It is to tourism what perpetual motion is to physics.

Anyhoo, Leonardo was a supremely talented artist and engineer, and something has to be piece he is known for. Seurat has "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte," Munch has "The Scream" and Leonardo has this.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:31 AM on August 26, 2010


I like to think of the interface as a game where the object is to be nimble enough to get the inner two images to enlarge. It's kind of fun!
posted by waxboy at 8:31 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't see the site, but is it anything like the pictures of people posing at the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

No, there's less Tai Chi at the Louvre.
posted by chavenet at 8:32 AM on August 26, 2010


I've never been to Paris, but my spouse went with his parents when he was young. I asked him about the Louvre and he said, "Oh yeah, we went there right before closing one day - we raced through to the Mona Lisa, took a picture, and left." At the time, I was completely boggled - what a waste of time!

I'll never understand how the Mona Lisa became the iconic 'great work of art' so many believe it to be.

At first, it was because men like to project their fantasies onto it. Then, it was stolen.
posted by muddgirl at 8:39 AM on August 26, 2010


Oh God. In grade ten I went over to France on a school trip and as soon as we landed (after a quick stop at the hotel to drop off our bags) we went to the Louvre. I can't imagine worse timing for a trip to a museum. After about half an hour the excitement of being in Paris wore off and I was so sick of naked people.

A couple friends and I dutifully followed the signs pointing the way to the Mona Lisa for what seemed like forever. Finally we got to a huge room in which a loud throng of people were taking photographs (For some reason I remember flashes; did they just ban flashes in the last fifteen years or so?).

I couldn't imagine pushing my way through all those people so I sat down on a bench. I've never seen the Mona Lisa.
posted by ODiV at 8:42 AM on August 26, 2010


The Six Minute Louvre.
posted by chavenet at 8:46 AM on August 26, 2010


You should only avoid the Louvre if A) you hate beautiful things or B) you've already been there a bunch of times. While out of the way places (and museums) are plentiful in Paris, and well worth discovering, there is a reason the Louvre is the Louvre. It's collection is amazing.

Truth. Though frankly the most impressive thing about the Mona Lisa is the spectacle, which lends itself to this fpp, I guess. But the rest of the Louvre? Oh yes. Never enough time there. Never enough.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:59 AM on August 26, 2010


I did the same thing as your spouse's family muddgirl. Got there right before closing time so I raced through and looked at/took illicit picture of "Winged Victory" the "Venus de Milo" and the "Mona Lisa" and then left. In my defense, years later I read "The Da Vinci Code" which is partially set in the Louvre and describes it a bunch, so I think I have been adequately exposed to it. Oh and I saw the movie too! I am a Louvre expert by this point.
posted by ND¢ at 9:01 AM on August 26, 2010


Site's still down unfortunately but I was reminded of this great super 8 film by Helga Fanderl dealing with this topic. Crazy good film.
posted by namagomi at 9:04 AM on August 26, 2010


I raced through and looked at/took illicit picture of "Winged Victory" the "Venus de Milo" and the "Mona Lisa" and then left.

One of the many pleasures of the Louvre is finding yourself in yet another giant hall filled to the fucking ceiling with incredible works of art you've never heard of, done by people you've never heard of (interspersed with those you have). "Holy fuck, LOOK AT THAT. WOW. *checks plate* Who the hell is this guy and why wasn't I taught about him? Oh wait, look at THAT..." (etc, etc.)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:18 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I so wanted to do this -- take pictures of people's faces as they reacted to the Mona Lisa. It was truly facinating -- some curious, some disapointed, some wonderous. (I was one of the latter -- it's actually a remarkable painting in person. Starry night is supposed to be the same way - much better in reality than in reproduction.)

But they had already banned cameras from that entire section of the museum (because people are stupid and use flash on pigment) and I didn't have the guts to ask the guards to make an exception for me.
posted by jb at 9:29 AM on August 26, 2010


In my defense, years later I read "The Da Vinci Code"

No offense, dude, but this is about the worst way imaginable to launch a defense of anything at all.

Also, the Musee de l'Orangerie is a great alternative if the line-up's too long at the Louvre. It's practically next door. I could stare at Monet's waterlilies for days.
posted by gompa at 9:31 AM on August 26, 2010


jb (and everyone else who runs into this) - I've rarely had problems shooting photos in museums if I use an old-school film camera that doesn't have a flash. I just say hi to the guard, ask if I can get a few shots, and point out that my camera is physically incapable of flashing. By then they're so amused at my toting around a 1960s/50s/40s camera they don't mind me shooting with it.

(This doesn't work in the Romantics gallery in the Met. It worked everywhere else, but not there. I don't know.)
posted by cmyk at 9:33 AM on August 26, 2010


No offense, dude, but this is about the worst way imaginable to launch a defense of anything at all.

My JokeMeter is pointing to 99% Certainty, dude.
posted by muddgirl at 9:35 AM on August 26, 2010


When I visited in 2008 there was no problem taking photos at the Louvre, so long as the flash was turned off. I spent 8 hours there, and (after culling duplicates, bad shots, etc) ended up with around 500 photos. I did personally chastise a couple of morons who had their flash turned on - "Hey man, TURN OFF THE FLASH, it damages the art and beside you are taking a photo of an object in a glass case! Your picture won't turn out!" - but I never saw any guards say a damn thing to the people at the Mona Lisa, which honestly astounded me.

The photo I have of it is out of focus and the image itself is littered with little red dots from the auto-focus assist from the camera of every dolt standing there taking flash images. It amazes me, because there is just so much to see there, yet this one painting is the focus for so many visitors, and you can't get within 10 feet of it. Even to do that, you have to stand in a crushing crowd of people snapping images with camera phones just to say you saw it in the first place. Plus it's behind 2-inch thick glass, which means most shots of it are focused on the glass rather than the painting. If you turn around, you can get nose-to-nose with other paintings, get so close you can see brushstrokes and cracks in the oils and just stare for as long as you want, but so many people don't bother to even do that.

If you're going to go to the Louvre, start in any wing you want, but leave the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa for last. My friend and I had the entire Greek, Etruscan, Early Christian and Michelangelo galleries largely to ourselves for most of the morning, because everyone else ran straight for the Mona Lisa, while we sauntered in to see it after lunch. It was a great plan.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:56 AM on August 26, 2010


I took a picture of that website. What do I get?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:08 AM on August 26, 2010


I got in trouble at the Houston MFA for standing next to a very large Warhol painting for a photo. It was okay to take photos, just not photos of people next to the art. Very strange rule that I can't find in their policy list.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:24 AM on August 26, 2010


When I went to the MOMA in New York, I noticed the same thing, people seeing all these incredible works of art (many of which are actually quite tiny) through an even tinier LCD screen. I captured this photographer photographing Dali's The Persistence of Memory (self Link)
posted by phirleh at 11:27 AM on August 26, 2010


Starry night is supposed to be the same way - much better in reality than in reproduction.

This is 100% definitely the case, and is true for pretty much every Van Gogh. His paints glow. Maybe the most striking one, though, is Wheat Field with Crows, because surrounded by the neon, living wheat, those crows, in person, are as black as death.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:48 AM on August 26, 2010


The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam has a no-cameras policy, while you can snap to your heart's content in the nearby Rijksmuseum. Sad.

But good choice. Yes, Van Gogh is really something in the flesh, and Wheat Field with Crows is luminous. I find Vermeers also incredible in person. My unexpected favourite, though, which I could not tear myself away from was Renoir's Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette at the Musée d'Orsay. In person, it is jaw-dropping.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:01 PM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I captured this photographer photographing Dali's The Persistence of Memory

Holy crow, that's tiny. I guess the same can be said for the Mona Lisa. A friend of mine just got back from Paris and had a few pictures not of the painting, but of the painting through other tourists' LCD screens (which is what I assume this site, which won't load, is meant to be). It seems so tiny, and you're kept from getting close to it, that I just don't understand the compulsion to take a picture of it, of the thing itself. Much more interesting, as jb notes, are the reactions.

I visited the Prado as a teenager, and, you know, I was a bit of a boor, but Goya made a huge impression on me. Tremendous canvases, as I recall, and really, really alive. Something to be seen in person.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:08 PM on August 26, 2010


Coral cache
posted by silby at 12:29 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aside from the "don't take pictures" signs posted everywhere, in multiple languages, why, why, why do people take photos of stuff in museums? What makes them think that their photo will somehow be better quality than the postcard in the gift shop?
posted by Ratio at 12:39 PM on August 26, 2010


It must have been the National Gallery in London, where after a long boring day of classic portraiture (not a fan) and still lifes (more of a fan but how many apples or skulls can one gallery contain? answer: all of them), we had finally made it to the Impressionists upstairs. I can confidently assure you that the (admittedly splendid) Sunflowers is the Mona Lisa of the National Gallery, at least for fans of impressionism.
posted by muddgirl at 12:40 PM on August 26, 2010


What makes them think that their photo will somehow be better quality than the postcard in the gift shop?

It's the photograph-as-memento rather than image. When these people return from their trip, they can show people their photos as evidence of their journey, the fact of their standing in the presence of something great. It's sacramental, in a way. Anyone can have a postcard from a gift shop, but to say that this is an artifact from the moment in time when you personally beheld something notable--!
posted by shakespeherian at 12:45 PM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


HOLY SHIT THAT'S THE MOST ANNOYING FLASH INTERFACE YET AAAAAGHHH I KNOW WE'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO DERAIL THREADS WITH THIS COMPLAINT ANYMORE BUT AGGGHH AAGGGHHH WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT AAAAAAAAAAA
posted by tehloki at 12:45 PM on August 26, 2010


Aside from the "don't take pictures" signs posted everywhere, in multiple languages, why, why, why do people take photos of stuff in museums? What makes them think that their photo will somehow be better quality than the postcard in the gift shop?

Since I'm interested in technique, I follow a full shot of the more interesting paintings to me (particularly oils) with one or more close ups, sometimes at oblique angles, to catch the strokes. I'm talking less than a foot from the canvas close-ups.

Why do you bother going to see them at all?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:48 PM on August 26, 2010


Why do you bother going to see them at all?

All galleries, as far as I know, allow sketchbooks, and I regularly see people spending an hour or more examining a painting, taking notes. There are also many reference guides on the more famous paintings.

But of course, we're not talking about artistic or academic photographing of paintings. We're talking about tourists taking an "I was here!" photo.
posted by muddgirl at 12:56 PM on August 26, 2010


Aside from the "don't take pictures" signs posted everywhere, in multiple languages, why, why, why do people take photos of stuff in museums? What makes them think that their photo will somehow be better quality than the postcard in the gift shop?

I take pictures of paintings that strike me at museums where photography is allowed--to show my friends and family what I saw, and what I enjoyed. I also take pictures of associated commentary when it contains an interesting fact, or tells a story. I'm not trying to recreate the image itself. I'm trying to capture the presence of the painting. That's something you'll never get from a postcard.
posted by litnerd at 1:03 PM on August 26, 2010


Take an 8-9+ megapixel camera, set on max settings (megapixels and quality) and snap. No one will think it's anything but an "I was here photo", but later, on your little lcd display, you're zooming in on an incredible amount of detail, the likes of which you would not be able to do with the typical GIS low-res version available on the internet. I wouldn't necessarily call any shot an "I was here" photo unless: a) they're posing with it, or b) you're being shown for that purpose post-trip.

I love those sketchbook artists. Each and every one of them.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:04 PM on August 26, 2010


Oh, I do take low-res shots of photos with title cards if I'm not familiar with them and want to follow up. I'll be damned if I'm going to spend $1 on every one in the gift shop, even if they carried every single painting, which they of course do not.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:05 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Title Cards! That's what they are. That's what I meant when I said "associated commentary."
posted by litnerd at 1:08 PM on August 26, 2010


I guess I'll never understand the desire to photograph anything, especially if it doesn't have a person I know in it. Sorry to bring it up.
posted by muddgirl at 1:15 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


All galleries, as far as I know, allow sketchbooks
While visiting the Walker in Minneapolis, my friend was unequivocally reprimanded for taking out his sketchbook. (Then again, they're also very strict on cameras.)
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 1:31 PM on August 26, 2010


Here's my pic of the crowds at the Mona Lisa. Although I was more disgusted at the disrespect of the photographers at Notre Dame Cathedral, and Sacre Couer. At both places, tourists were walking around, snapping photos, chatting to each other, kids running around. I'm not a religious person, but I do respect the solemn and sacred nature of churches.
posted by robotot at 1:43 PM on August 26, 2010


Ho hum, it's a fake anyway.



Also, not to add on to the earlier derail, but I actually like the annoying interface.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:48 PM on August 26, 2010


My I humbly submit: my Art with Strangers set.
posted by muckster at 1:48 PM on August 26, 2010


I take pictures of tourists taking pictures of touristy things. I find that much more interesting than than taking pictures of the touristy thing myself (though I may do that too). People get into some pretty funny positions trying to get their shot.
posted by zennie at 2:33 PM on August 26, 2010


I guess I'll never understand the desire to photograph anything, especially if it doesn't have a person I know in it. Sorry to bring it up.

I photograph everything. People. Objects. Food. Documents. The Mona Lisa.

I explain to people that I have a photographic memory.

And I don't mean that in a good way. If I don't take a picture of something, I can't remember a damn thing.
posted by mazola at 2:57 PM on August 26, 2010


We did the "go to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and then bolt" thing this summer. It was hot and crowded, but I was determined that my daughter would see that painting on her first trip to Paris. Maybe she'll go back someday and really enjoy the entire museum; I hope she will, and that the experience is better than this one was.

I would like to find a picture of the jackass who was trying to take a picture of his girlfriend AND the Mona Lisa at the same time (completely impossible, given their position and the distance between the crowd-control ropes and the painting), while obliviously crushing my 7-year-old as she tried to keep her feet in the crowd, and I tried not to faint or puke. Pregnancy sickness and the crowd in front of the Mona Lisa in July do not mix. What a ridiculous circus.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 6:16 PM on August 26, 2010


blue_beetle: "I took a picture of that website. What do I get?"

And I took a photo of you taking a photo of that website.

Next time, please wear clothes.
posted by bwg at 6:32 PM on August 26, 2010


jb: But they had already banned cameras from that entire section of the museum (because people are stupid and use flash on pigment) and I didn't have the guts to ask the guards to make an exception for me.

So? Flash on oil pigments has never been shown to do a damned thing.


I did personally chastise a couple of morons who had their flash turned on - "Hey man, TURN OFF THE FLASH, it damages the art and beside you are taking a photo of an object in a glass case! Your picture won't turn out!" - but I never saw any guards say a damn thing to the people at the Mona Lisa, which honestly astounded me.


caution live frogs, you drank the kool-aid, too.

To be fair, I once did this sort of righteous policing, too, but looked into it, and discovered there's no good data to support it. Then I did the math, and decided that, for most works, there simply isn't a significant increase in gross radiation exposure between allowing a few dozen flashes a day, and simply having the lights on.

There's a belief amongst some curators (like at the Met) that watercolors may be more sensitive, and so flash is still banned in their watercolor galleries, but oils are pretty rock-solid. Literally: the pigments are mostly ground minerals. Show me which side of the lapis lazula nugget was facing upwards, the last 4,000 years it lay on this desert floor...
posted by IAmBroom at 10:51 PM on August 26, 2010


Aside from the "don't take pictures" signs posted everywhere, in multiple languages, why, why, why do people take photos of stuff in museums? What makes them think that their photo will somehow be better quality than the postcard in the gift shop?

Because, Ratio, as a costume researcher, I can assure you that the postcard in the gift shop will NOT focus tightly on the tiny costume accessory in the lower-right-hand side that I am chiefly interested in, or not show enough detail, or simply there will not be one of it at all. MOST works in the museum - and this is probably true of every goddamned museum in the world - do not have every single work of art copied as images for resale in their gift shop.

And when they do have the one I am interested in, in great detail, it's only by happy circumstance, which I can't verify while walking through the museum, at a significant markup over the $0.0001 it costs me to snap a digital photo.

Also, none of the versions of Whistler's "Symphony in White" accurately reflected the color balance of the original, which I can reproduce at home in Photoshop. Likewise the gorgeously obscene blues & purples of O'Keefe's iris center.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:05 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had a way better experience at the Musee d'Orsay than at the Louvre, personally. Part of it is that the Musee d'Orsay has a really incredible collection, and part of it the no-cameras policy, which makes the atmosphere a thousand times more pleasurable. Can we forget about the picture taking for a minute and focus on seeing what's there?
posted by kaibutsu at 2:05 PM on August 27, 2010


What the -- ... The Musee D'Orsay is no-cameras now, too? That's sucks, dude. It was a fine experience with cameras, believe me. I'm not sure what's not to enjoy. Even without, you still have the same dumb people hanging out in front of pieces like they're the only ones there. Given all the sculpture at the MD'O, the only thing missing would be the people posing along with pieces (which, ok, would minimally cut down on the grar). But it's not that big a deal.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:15 PM on August 27, 2010


That sucks, that is. Grar.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:19 PM on August 27, 2010


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