Respecting the Renwick

The Renwick Gallery represented, to me, a condensed version of everything that we commonly resent about living in a tourist-popping city. It was crowded with people who clearly had no idea where they were going, movement between exhibits was next to impossible due to congestion, and the majority seemed to spend most of their time viewing the exhibit through the lens of a camera than with their own two eyes. Call me a traditionalist but the presence of pseudo-artsy and touristy photographers took away from my experience at the Renwick Gallery. Being raised with the earthy notions of “leave no trace” and “take a picture with your mind”, I could not reconcile this view of museums with that of the Renwick. Several times I found myself stopped outside of an exhibit because one individual had decided to stop traffic by standing in the entryway for the perfect picture. One of the most genuine features of many museums is their non-rival nature, one person’s viewing of the art does not impact another person’s ability to view the art (except the Mona Lisa). This idea is based in respect and it was challenged by the crowds at the Renwick. To me, it felt like this sacred element of museums had disappeared in this particular one.

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In my own photographing, however, I found that taking a picture did not change how I viewed the museum. When lying on my back in the Tsunami and Earthquake exhibit, I snapped a few photographs and, if anything, it prompted me to look at the art from different angles. But I think that if one spends enough time looking at a particular piece of art and sticks around for more than just one picture, the photography will not change your experience. Viewing art depends largely on patience and if photography does not impede ones ability to take their time, they will eventually see everything they would have sans camera.

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After experiencing such a photo-friendly museum, my research paper seems slightly more feasible because I discovered that every photo is taken with more intention than the viewer of the photograph immediately understands. I gave much consideration to the angles and the overall appearance of the photograph before taking it. I think that this indicates that the professional photographers I am studying will convey more in their photographs than they intend and when looking at these photographs, it will become clear that which they are not saying outright.

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