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A picture of art and you - why?

Would someone please explain to me why you would want a photo of yourself standing next to a great piece of art?
I just returned from France and at every museum I visited tourists were posing next to art while a family member snapped a photo. Most of the time, the person posing for the photo did not even look at the art. Just posed, clicked, and walked away. One person right after another from all different countries. Why do you do this? Can't you just buy a postcard?

Posted by
79 posts

I have often wondered this too, although I have to admit, I've done it. I think it's because we have this mindset of "proving" we saw it. However, I've already decided (before this post even) that I will NOT be taking pictures of paintings.

I must admit, though, that sometimes it's fun. My friend posed in front of Rodin's Gates of Hell to look like she was running into it. :) Sometimes they can be fun pictures.

Posted by
7544 posts

In one respect, it harkens back to the animal instinct of marking your territory, might be a little graphic, but no different than having your picture taken at the Eifel tower or other places. But absolutely, must do, take a picture of all the tourists attempting to "hold up" the tower in Pisa...then shamelessly do it yourself.

Posted by
47 posts

Because some of us love art. A piece of art is someone's heart and soul; it's history; a moment in time; and I'm standing close enough to touch it. I've got a great pic of me standing next to a Van Gogh self portrait. I'm in blue, he's in blue; I'm sporting a beard, so is he; both our hair, slicked back. It's a great picture. My own personal piece of art. Does it document that I was there? Yes, but what it really does is capture a moment in time that no postcard could ever do. Ive also got a great pic of me walking down Rue Cler clutching a baguette, and wearing a big "frois gras" eating grin. Maybe I should have waited to get home to buy a French bread at Publix; the edible version of a postcard.

Posted by
127 posts

talk about disrespectful: i was at the vatican, and there were ppl posing in front of the holy water, with thse HUGE cherubs sculpted, blessing themselves, posing , having their pictures taken.
beat that.
:[

Posted by
204 posts

I quite agree with all the above comments. I have found a way to get groups to be more cooperative tho at the cost of being confrontational. When I am standing or sitting in front of some work and some obnoxious guide swarms her group in front of me, I say clearly and loudly, "Please do not get in my way." They stand well away. Recently in the Pantheon a guide started giving his spiel, much of it wrong, and I stood up and walked thru the group loudly saying, "I have never heard such stupidity in my life." After stuttering a minute I heard the guide say "Well, that's all of that I guess."

Posted by
104 posts

I have to admit it is fun to pose like the statue you are next to and snap a photo. I have a funny one of myself trying to look like the Venus d'Milo. As long as I'm not bothering anyone else or preventing anyone from taking their own photos, I don't see the harm. In that case, the photo is not for the art itself but for the experience. I agree that a better quality image would come from a postcard or book.

Posted by
91 posts

I've never felt the need to stand in front of a painting. It would certainly ruin the feeling for me.

Last year I sat in front of the Raft of Medusa by Gericault for almost two hours. It moved me to tears, I had goose bumps, and I could feel it in my limbs...in my soul. It was a feeling that I will not forget. I don't need a picture for proof of my feelings.

To be completely honest- it annoys me a little, to be enjoying a painting and then be pushed out of the way so a swarm of tourists can stand in front of it while flashes pop all around my head. I find it terribly disrespectful.

Posted by
112 posts

What really upsets me is when a tourist takes
flash pictures of anything that has the sign that
has the symbol showing no flash. That is there for
a reason.

Posted by
74 posts

Everybody and their dog taking a cameraphone picture of the Mona Lisa and the poor guards trying to make it stop... I don't get it.

Posted by
104 posts

When I was in Paris, I never got within 100 feet of the Mona Lisa because of this massive tour group blocking it off. Everyone was snapping away their photos with their flashes, and no one in the museum seemed to try to stop them. My only satisfaction was knowing their photos would be ruined by the glare off the glass. I was definitely surprised at the lack of interference by the museum guards in the Louvre as opposed to the smaller museums like the Carnevalet, where there was a guard in every room assuring no one used a flash.

Posted by
2775 posts

Beth, if you stand at the right angle you can get a picture of Mona Lisa without a glare. Someone I work with got a great picture and no glare. But, I agree that people shouldn't be taking pictures.

Posted by
1589 posts

It's all part of the Clark Griswold school of foreign travel - been there, done that, next stop is Paris!

Posted by
83 posts

The painting/sculpture/whatever may be around for a few thousand years, with any luck, and we will be around for less than a hundred. It's a piece of human history, and on a less cynical note it's a way we connect with ourselves, our humanity.When I'm old and grey I wouldn't mind remembering what I was like making a visit to Dumchamp's 'Fountain' at the Tate Modern. In 30 years I'm going back to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona with the picture of me standing at the front doors.It's a modern way of bringing part of the experience with you. Nothing wrong with that, that is, not accounting for manners.

Posted by
91 posts

Joel- what you say is nice, but I don't think that is what the other 99% of the people are thinking when they stand in front of a Monet and snap away.

I think, unfortunately, it's really just a disconnection. Most people think they have to go to museums when they visit Europe, even if they don't really like art. They don't really understand what they are doing. It's just like taking a picture of yourself in from of the Eiffel Tower...

Your concept is much more beautiful.

Posted by
4 posts

I'm with you. If you're just trying to document that you were somewhere, that makes for some of the least interesting vacation photos.

"I must admit, though, that sometimes it's fun. My friend posed in front of Rodin's Gates of Hell to look like she was running into it. :) Sometimes they can be fun pictures."

I have a picture of myself, also in Rodin's sculpture garden, looking up and contemplating The Thinker while scratching my ass. That did end up being one of my favorite pictures from the trip.

Posted by
12040 posts

Another possible explanation is a sort of perverse celebrity effect, the intense desire amongst some to capture a personal connection to a celebrity, be it an autograph, a picture, or an auctioned piece of clothing. Well, famous paintings can't talk, can't sign autographs, and you definately can't take a piece of the painting! All that's left is to take a picture.

On a related note, I once read a travel writer refer to what he called "the Mona Lisa effect". He defined this as a tendency among non-savy travelers (my words, not his) to view travel as a series of must-see highlights, not as an overall experience with potential surprises around every corner. The prime example: the throngs of tourists who march straight to the Mona Lisa, jostle with the crowd, snap their picture, then leave the museum, in the process ignoring hundreds of other worthy, less famous artworks. Hence, the "Mona Lisa effect". Or, perhaps "travelers' myopia".

Posted by
67 posts

We do that sometimes, some of the "must do" attractions are worth visiting and "checking off", and you want a photo of yourself with it. The reason I like our photo in front of things sometimes is my husband takes JUST travel/postcard shots & I'd like to show people pictures of US with those attractions. I told him he could BUY a nice photo/postcard of the Eiffel Tower, but I doubt he'd get a photo of my son & me in front of it unless he took one. We also took a photo of my son (age 12) with Rodin's "Thinker" mimicking the pose - and one of him with a Van Gogh which looked like him - It makes for nice memories in the scrapbook.

By the way, we LOOK at the art first - then we take the photo.

Posted by
313 posts

I agree with everyone's disgust with the tour groups, but their bad behavior isn't limited to museums. (How about a tour group walking down the only road in Vernazza with a guide using a loud speaker?)

I don't konw that we've taken photos standing in front of paintings yet, but we've taken them in front of other monuments and memorable places. The reason we're taking photos is for memories. If you want pictures of the objects themselves, you might as well buy postcards -- unless you're a better photographer than I am. I like to look at my pictures a year or two down the road and have them bring back the memories. But then, I know how to do it without a flash and without butting in front of someone studying a piece of artwork.

Posted by
104 posts

At the risk of starting something up, I've noticed that this behavior tends to be more prevalent amongst Asian tourists. George Carlin used to joke "can you imagine how big a Japanese photo albumm must be?". I did so frustrated one time trying to take a photo of the garden behind Notre Dame and not being able to do so because of Asians needing to have their picture taken in front of it that I just began to walk between them and their cameras. Childish, I confess, but after waiting for 20 minutes for a shot of the garden alone that I had a bit of a meltdown. Thankfully, I don't do this very often. I don't take shots of art work as I can always find a better shot in the museum store.

Posted by
80 posts

For some it is part of the whole experience of traveling, for others it is part of their culture, and sometimes it is just done without much thought. As long as we all follow the rules and are polite we should be able to take (or not take) as many pictures as we like.

Posted by
67 posts

Heh heh . . . John's experience at Notre Dame made me remember being in the museum at the Acropolis and a very obnoxious Frenchman constantly telling us we were in his shots. I don't know how we managed it, with the museum being quite crowded (not like we were the only other ones there) - but either my husband, son or I was always being waved to the side with an impatient, annoyed "excusez-moi!" Everyone else was happily snapping shots with other tourists in them. Didn't really run into any rude French in France (people constantly ask "being American, were people rude to you in Paris? How cliche - Parisians are generlly just "big city" people - like in New York or London - trying to go about their lives), but I did in Greece!