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Flickr says: Sawubona Walker Art Center!

The Walker has had a flickr account for several months, but we have only been using it to hosting photos from Party People. That is changing. We’ve created two additional groups: Walker Art Center For photos of and around the Walker building. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden For photos in and around the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The […]

The Walker has had a flickr account for several months, but we have only been using it to hosting photos from Party People. That is changing. We’ve created two additional groups:

The groups are something we’ve been meaning to create for a while, but seeing the Shelley Bernstein and Nicole Caruth present about the Brooklyn Museum’s use of flickr at MW2007 threw another dash of gasoline on our fire. During their presentation, Shelley told us to steal her idea. This is our start.

So if you have photos from your last visit to the Walker or the Sculpture Garden, and are a flickr user, please add them to our group. Not a flickr user? You can still browse as the groups grow. As of this post, there are already 117 photos in the Sculpture Garden Pool, but only 10 in the Walker Art Center Pool.

Some things many museums are concerned about with regard to user created photos on Flickr are photo policies and copyright. As moderator of these groups, we do need to watch out for photos that don’t fit within the photography policy of the Institution. The Walker does not allow photography in the galleries or of artwork. Photography of the building and architecture is allowed. The Sculpture Garden does allow photography, but it needs to be non-commercial in nature. The reasons for these policies are two-fold. First, while the Walker may own the art in the galleries, we don’t always own the copyright. Many of the artists in our collections are alive and still hold the copyright on their work. The Sculpture Garden is a public space so the same rules can’t apply. However, many of the works in the sculpture garden are still copyrighted by the artists. Fair use allows non-commercial use, but commercial use must be licensed by the copyright holder. Wedding photos and that sort of thing need to get a permit from the City of Minneapolis.

Legalities aside, I think our policy makes sense for a few other reasons. We’re more interested in the community aspects of seeing and attending the Walker. I don’t think taking a photo of work hanging on a wall documents that. We already have many of those in our collections database. Secondly, if we did allow photography in our galleries, it can be distracting to visitors and potentially damaging to the artwork. Robin told us that on her recent visit to MOMA, guards were constantly having to deal with visitors who used their flash while photographing artwork. The concentrated light in flashes can be damaging to some types of paint, not to mention distracting to other visitors. Thirdly, as much as I would love to take some macro shots of Charles Ray’s Unpainted Sculpture or Robert Smithson’s Leaning Strata, I would have to get too close to the work and probably would end up touching the work, which can also be damaging to the artwork. As a museum, we have an imparative to preserve the work for everyone to view.

At the same time, we know photos that don’t fit within our guidelines exist. It is possible to snap a photo when a guard walks out of the gallery, the same way it’s possible for someone to put their fist through a painting. We just can’t condone them and ask that people don’t submit them to our pools.