Gallery photography etiquette


The Doc and I visited the Hepworth Wakefield the other day. It's a beautiful moated lump of concrete angles and brutality, full of some rather nice art. Very much my cup of tea. But it's also a bit confusing.

Worldwide, galleries generally fall into one of two camps: "please take as many photos as you like" and "if you even dare contemplate reaching for a camera you will be shouted at and publicly humiliated you pathetic art thief, what are you thinking, now delete every single file on your camera or we'll do your kneecaps in".

I understand both approaches, even if one is always upheld in the most disproportionately aggressive way possible (Leeds Art Gallery is particularly bad). I take photos of pretty much anything and everything I come across in my travels, but freedom to take snaps can be incredibly disruptive – a trip to MoMA a couple of years ago was marred considerably by the fact you couldn't get near any of the works for gaggles of people slowly framing perfect shots with their enormous TouristGigantiCams.

The problem with the Hepworth is that it can't decide which camp to be in, flitting between these two extremes on a room-by-room basis. Each room in the gallery has a tiny sign telling you whether or not photography is permitted. It all seems rather arbitrary. As a result, I spent my entire vista being slightly distracted by trying to work out under what conditions I may enjoy the work, and trying to perfect my iPhone-camera-ninja techniques. In the end, the only decent pics I managed to get were of the outside of the building.

So I'm undecided as to whether or not gallery photography is a good or bad thing, but I am certain that each gallery should make a decision one way or the other. What do you reckon?