Discussion Topic: Pictures of Pictures

In a New York Times article, the art critic Roberta Smith notes the increasingly common use of cameras, especially cellphones by viewers when interacting with art. In particular, she discusses the behavior of visitors to the Venice Biennale, an exhibition of contemporary art that is held every two years in Venice, Italy. Many countries, including the U.S., are represented with their art displayed in national pavilions. Do you agree with her opinions on the usage of cameras in relation to art? What is your opinion on taking pictures of pictures?

Read Roberta Smith’s NYT article here

Explore the Venice Biennale website and videos of installations in the pavilions

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Please post your responses by Saturday, February 18.


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15 Responses to Discussion Topic: Pictures of Pictures

  1. moley says:

    The advent of the modern smartphone has exponentially increased the number of cameras in circulation, albeit at a lesser resolution that most serious photographers would approve. It none the less has changed the way modern humans interact with their environment physically and socially. The critic seems to be putting down camera phones and their users because suddenly anyone with a modern cellphone can “capture” art and display it in seconds for all the modern world to see.

    She certainly believes that the sheer numbers of cameras she sees at art events and installations will have a negative impact on how photography is perceived as a refined form of art. After all if any Tom or Jane can snap a few pictures and call themselves an artist, is it really art?

    I personally don’t much care for taking pictures of pictures, I prefer to support the artists or installations and if available purchase a reproduction print.

  2. New York Times art critic Roberta Smith seems to be highly opinionated about what she considers to be art, and even more concerned with the etiquette of art viewers. Smith’s article complains about NYT photographer Ruth Fremson’s coverage of the Venice Biennale (summer ’11). Fremson’s photos included images of people viewing art. It seems this bothers Smith, who then questions the integrity of personal photography.

    It’s really not that deep, Smith! You’re coming across a bit artsy fartsy.

    When a person makes an effort to travel thousands of miles to view art exhibits, one can safely assume this person is a lover of the arts. As long as the camera isn’t damaging the artwork and the museum allows cameras, whatever is said thereafter about the matter is an opinion.

    Smith forgets that art is in the eye of the beholder! A picture of someone taking a picture can be just as beautiful as the original artwork that is being viewed.

  3. Romaine says:

    Taking photography of an exhibition whether through a viewfinder or LED screen doesn’t take away from what the exhibition has to offer. Art can be look at many different perspectives and still be appreciated. As times goes on and technology advances so does the method in which we interact and capture the world around us. While many may argue that there isn’t a substitution for seeing art in person, not everyone is granted that opportunity and taking photos is a way to express a form this experience.

  4. It would appear that Smith is intimidated by the idea of the average person photographing art. She goes into detail about how ‘only’ two people in the photographs are using traditional full service cameras. The rest are using casual camera phones or mini cameras and it is changing the look of photography. She then follows this up by stating that it is ‘dismaying’ to see so many cameras at an art exhibition and claims it is turning art into a method to prove that one has travelled. In short, it is ruining the meaning of the art and the appearance of photography as an art medium.

    Smith should realize that these people with their automatic digital cameras are not artists. They do not have the tools or the experience necessary to take the quality photos that professional photographers are revered for. The impact that the average person deals to the facade of photography is a hollow concern. It is a simple task to distinguish a photo taken with an automatic camera or smartphone to that of one taken with manual, advanced photographic equipment. To further drive this point home, it is more simple still to differentiate the work of an amateur and the work of a professional.

    People have been using cameras as a way to record their lives since they first became available. If photography was able to become an art form when it was mostly being used for stock display, travel, and scientific archives then it is unlikely that Photography will lose its statues as a respectable art form in an age where everyone relates the word Photography to art, no matter how many novices get their hands on digital automatic cameras.

    As for the influence on the exhibition itself, I do not see how the huge amounts of novice photography belittles the meaning and purpose of the artwork into something as trivial as evidence of travel. To physically be in front of the art is an experience that far outmatches that of simply looking at an image of it. This really applies with anything as you cannot experience the subject the way it was intended. The art does not suffer or become something trivial like evidence just because someone takes a picture of it. What these non-artist, automatic camera wielding travelers are doing is simply keeping memories. The photo of the art will never be equivalent to the actual piece itself. The experience they had when viewing the art in person and the experience they have when they look at it on their camera or in their photo albums will never compare. That alone allows for the art to stay relevant, no matter how many images are taken of it, novice or professional.

    I have mixed emotions about taking photos of art. I do not see anything wrong with it but I also will not acknowledge it as being an adequate representation of the art itself. I support the use of photos of art as a method of keeping an archive or a method of promoting the piece. I am particularly dissatisfied with the idea of taking a picture of art and calling it the same as the source. It can be less or it can be more but it can never be equal.

  5. Alexis Y says:

    In Roberta smith article, she shares her thoughts of how people uses their camera to take pictures of well-known displays that seems to be degrading it’s quality work. Also Where people are taking pictures as sense of memory in physical form and not really know its true beauty. For me in a sense I don’t agree with her. I mean you see something so remarkable, you would want to take pictures of it to keep it as a memory, but taking it with a camera can change the way it looks, however not everyone are artist and see the same way as her.

    I believe that its fine taking pictures of art. You may see it with the eye and have it imprinted in your brain as a memory, but as time goes by it would fade from the mind, so to have the picture is a great way to keep remembering it and also its a great way to share with others.

  6. kkathia123 says:

    In this article we can see clearly that Mrs. Smith is not too happy about the usage of casual cameras and cellphones cameras when it is to take pictures of an art. She states that they took out the beauty of the works of art exhibited in the museum. I kind of feel the repugnance reaction of Mrs. Smith toward the behavior of the visitors because most of the visitors are not taking the works of art as art, but as pieces of memories or evidences to show that they have been there. She is an art critic and I understand that it is very hurtful to see people that don’t appreciate the things you love, but you can’t make people to perceive the way you do. In addition, I think that the majority of the people who go to museum are tourists and not artists; therefore, they won’t be acting so professional and interested. They will go, look, take some pictures of the things they like, and leave.
    In my opinion, taking pictures of pictures is a great way to remember the pictures that I’m taking. It will capture all the details of the work of art and also, it would be like having a piece of art with me that I can appreciate and observe every day.

  7. sarah52 says:

    The usage of cameras in relating to art is not a concerning matter. If someone wants to appreciate something beautiful by taking a photo of it, the artist should feel proud about it. However, Roberta Smith has different thoughts and strong discouragement about this.
    I personally think taking pictures of a picture or an art is not a big deal and I do it too. It does not hurt anyone’s creative mind nor makes the art less important. There are some artist who uses mobile photos in their exhibition as well. so we should not make a big deal about it.

  8. ramlakhanp says:

    Taking pictures of pictures does not take away the beauty of the art work in my belief. In Roberta smith article, she states how passionate she feels about art work and how people don’t embrace its true formation, but rather take a picture of it on their camera or cell phone to capture only the memory not the true essence. She’s speaking from an art critic stand point and this is her strong belief, for others simply taking a picture does not de value the artist but capture the moment. Although I can see where Roberta coming from, I don’t agree with her because a picture can tell a thousands of words and how you take it should not matter whether you’re taking a picture of a picture. Viewing art work is a wonderful experience to see all type of techniques and dimensions set forth and taking a picture of it makes that memory last a little bit longer.

  9. mzambrana says:

    I definitely agree with Roberta Smith. Yes, many artists may not mind that you take a picture of their art but it does disengage focus of the viewer’s eye away from the actual art. How many times have you’ve been so busy trying to take a picture of the art instead of focusing on the art itself? I agree that it isn’t a big deal but I do see why artist may have a concern of taking a picture of their art.

  10. mzambrana says:

    From reading, art critic Roberta Smith opinion on the increasingly common use of cameras, I have to say that I completely understand her position and opinion. In fact from reading her perspective of camera use in the New York Times, it’s hard to say that people are not becoming photographers themselves, because they are. I totally agree with Roberta Smith because when people attend exhibits they are no longer the ” viewers”. My perspective on this topic is that the camera becomes the
    “viewer” and the person captivating the picture through the camera automatically become the “photographer “. Don’t you agree?

    In addition, from viewing the photographs provided in the article, it obvious that photography is gradually changing. The art critic herself stated that people are no longer holding their camera close to their eyes. Just as the articles title ” When the Camera Takes Over for the Eye.” They are now, looking from a distance and that distance is through a “digital” screen. Viewers, now have the opportunity and ability to of taking a picture from their own perspective. The viewer, the “photographer” is now able to position the camera in a way that he/she sees the art.

    Although at the same time, it is safe to say that taking pictures of pictures is a way of connecting and almost “staying in the moment”. Taking pictures of pictures is in fact the new way of “remembering “what is and definitely what was. Everywhere, people go and the places people visit, people are taking their portable digital camera. This category may include, digital camera, phone, even an IPOD these days have cameras. It’s amazing! With this said, the portable camera is easier especially faster for the viewer. In 2012, a picture is literally a click away.

    Student Maria Zambrana

  11. zee215 says:

    Roberta Smith’s article on the coverage of Venice Bienale by Ruth Fremson is a bit puzzling to me. It seems her view is that people at art exhibits are more concerned about a photo op then actually appreciating the art itself. I understand that she is an accomplished art critic and has seen it all, but her view on this topic is almost comical.
    Maybe she sees herself as a caretaker for all artists and art itself, but she fails to see that her colleague was at the exhibit for the same reason, to take pictures of art. Who is she to think that these people did not stand in front of those art pieces for hours and appreciate them before taking out a camera. Why are they not allowed to record the memory and the feeling it gave them at that point in time. Isn’t Ms. Fremson there for the same reason, to record and report, allowing Ms. Smith to see what was happening at the art exhibit without even going to it.
    The advances in technology has all granted anyone with a cellphone to have a camera with them at all times. Does this make them artists? I don’t think so but who is to say what art is. I guess only art critics are allowed that honor.

  12. kathrynli says:

    I believe art may be interpreted in many different ways. It doesn’t have to be on canvas or be a sculpture for it to be classified as “art”. Different people with different personalities or perspectives may view a piece differently from others. The same goes for the use of cameras. Clearly some people don’t appreciate it when spectators take pictures of artwork, but maybe they’re creating something brilliant. Maybe they see something that other spectators, or even the artist, doesn’t see. The use of cameras may capture the beauty and details of the piece in different angles, and since one is technically viewing the piece through a screen/lens, it may be similar to microscopes and its ability to focus on objects that may not be seen with the naked eye.

    No matter what type of camera, it still serves the same purpose. Maybe some people are actually very interested in art and they would like to preserve the “moment” that they were in when they first saw the piece. When somebody is captured in a picture where they are observing a work of art, it may also be considered as artwork to someone else. It may be the pose the person is in, or the facial expression, or the distance between the person and the art piece, or even the colors that are in the picture — not everyone has to have the same definition for “art”. Something that you may think is pointless or dull may be beautiful and interesting to somebody else.

  13. Diana Liang says:

    In Roberta smith’s article, she talk about her thoughts of people how to use their camera to take picture. in this centurt a lot of people use their cellphone to take picture of what their are seem. however, cellphone pixel is not good as camera. i agree with Ruth Fremson that people are taking pictures of works of art or people looking at works of art. because a lot of people carry camera of taking picture as their work and sometime will think their work is to take picture. also, takin picture can capture a lot of beatiful and detail moment of people lives. no matter what people use to take picture, the purpose of them are to take the best moment in their lives. or people that are very interesting in art that want to show the their first saw.

  14. Jian Huang says:

    from the article we can tell that Roberta smith believes that the world is relying too much on their cell phones and such, cell phones are used instead of an actual camera, obviously the quality will be slightly off, but i believe its worth it, because cell phones are portable. in my opinion only professional photographers still use traditional full-service camera.

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