Over at Gizmodo on Saturday, they asked the question ‘What’s so wrong about taking photos with an iPad?‘ I’ve covered the ‘using the iPad as a camera’ issue before, so I’m not going to rehash it because that would be boring and actually it rather misses my point because what caught my eye was the image choice to illustrate the article. It was of a young woman using her iPad to photograph impressionist paintings in a gallery. This. This is something that I just do not understand.
Not specifically using an iPad to photograph multi-layered, complex works of art, normally exhibited in carefully controlled environments, but photographing them at all. What’s the obsession?
It wasn’t just the Gizmodo article that got me thinking this; it’s something that I’ve noticed before now in various galleries. Rather than taking time to absorb a piece, to let its colours and its story and its brushwork wash over you, people seem to be intent on looking at it through their three inch—or in the case of a tablet, slightly larger—screens, grabbing a quick photo and moving on from it. I cannot determine any pleasure in that I’m not certain how appreciative it is of the artist’s skill and talent.
When you have a Renoir worth millions hanging before you, you pay it the attention it demands and the respect it deserves. That doesn’t come from a photo snapped hastily with a miniscule-sensored camera that you’ll probably never actually look at again. Even if you do look at your snapshot again, it’ll never be able to entrance and captivate you in the same way that the original can. I promise you, a pefectly lit, carefully composed medium format reproduction of a Guardi, a Stubbs, or a Fantin-Latour cannot, in any way, compare to the real thing. So don’t think that your iPad-snap or point-and-shoot shot will. You’re in a gallery to observe the art, why not do that?
It’s almost as if people are taking photos to remind themselves that they’ve actually seen something, rather than really looking at it and being able to remember it for how glorious it is.
Yes, I suppose that people can waste their time and money photographing delicate, intricate pieces of art with cameras of varying quality in far-from-optimal lighting conditions, rather than gazing at it, enjoying it, and absorbing it if they want to. But can they damn well make sure that they do not stand directly in front it, obscuring my view, when I’m trying to do just that?