Go to a Museum

For my History of Photography class the students are required to attend a minimum of three different museums throughout the semester. I recently attended the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to see their new photography exhibit “She Who Tells A Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World” and it was awesome!

I don’t want to talk too much about the exhibit in case someone reading this is planning on attending, but basically all the photographs depict something different or provocative about the Arab woman’s lifestyle and culture. I’ll leave the description at that.

More info at: http://www.mfa.org/exhibitions/she-who-tells-story

I really wanted to talk about the idea of going to a museum itself and why it is that we have museums. I’ve never really been a museum goer largely because of the time it takes to travel, money, and scheduling conflicts. I’ve always thought, “why go to a museum when you can just google search the images or the artwork online” and while this is true and this is also the natural tendency of my generation I think there is something to be said for the presentation of artwork. This is where a museum shines.

I could not have said it better myself. Even though you can look at art online, there is something about the professional presentation a museum has that can add an extra quality to the artwork. There is something about being in a museum and viewing, in the present, a photograph that someone took and printed. There is quality associated with physically being in the presence of the “the real thing” that is not attainable from simply viewing a photograph online. This concept is more relevant to 3-D structures like arts and crafts that have physical depth in person as opposed to a photograph which is always a 2-D representation of depth on paper. However, the concept still applies to both types of artwork.

Viewing a photograph in person is the same as talking in person. There is the added quality of human interaction like eye contact, voice tone, touching, and underlying emotions that come into play during face to face conversations that would otherwise not exist if the same conversation were had over text messages. A physical print of a photograph takes up space just as the viewer does and thus establishes a connection, a conversation. There are colors and tones on the paper that exist because someone had to put them there, someone somewhere cared enough to put that print in the room where you are standing. Someone cared enough to actually want to take that picture and give you the experience of viewing it.

I think sometimes the internet does a good job at disconnecting us from the things we are viewing. It’s so easy to view images online that they lose some of their value. Every image loses something because they are all projected through the same screen with the same wires. For instance, every photographer may have used a different paper that had a different look to it, a sheen or tone, but it is all homogenized when viewing through a computer’s display. Just like a piece of metal cannot be a piece of wood, an LCD screen cannot make up the properties of the printed piece of paper. The screen does not become paper when viewing a photographic print online and in turn the photograph loses part of itself.

In short, my realization is that the presentation of artwork is an art form in and of itself and it does not exist on the internet. It is a beautiful thing.



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