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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Flash, Flash, Click, Click, Flash

There is a new breed of quiltmaker. Or perhaps it is a new breed of quilt show visitor? Either way, this particular species carries a state of the art digital with him/her, or has a spouse/partner to carry/deploy it for them. They walk their way round the exhibit, flashing and clicking away, taking pictures not only of the quilts themselves, but the artists' statements that accompany them. Occasionally, they'll take a closer look at a piece. Then they take a close up. They whizz round the room in this way, and then pass onto the next one. The more serious minded bring tripods, and trip up other viewers as well as getting in the way.

When did we become wed to our cameras? Probably around the time we realised that catalogues can be expensive, and good quality digital cameras became less and less expensive. Personally, I don't take pictures at quilt shows. Partly, that's because I know that looking at a photo isn't really going to remind me of the piece. I'll look at it and wonder what I saw in the original, more likely as not, because so much is lost in the translation from cloth to image that takes place when you use a camera. And if I don't remember a piece without an image, then I suspect it wasn't worth remembering. Partly, it's because I want to concentrate on the works themselves, have a direct dialogue with them, possibly write down one or two notes (juggling camera AND notebook AND pen is...err...challenging...). And partly it's because I know too many curators. They remind me that the costs of putting up an exhibit is high, particularly if it's travelling abroad, that grant funding is difficult to find and that a catalogue may well be the only source of income possible to defray those expenses not covered by the venue. Ultimately, if catalogues remain unsold, then shows may well tour less, if at all, and we will miss out on the unique experience of being in the presence of a collection of good work. And that would be a pity.

What's your view? As an artist, as a quiltmaker, as a viewer? To photograph, or not to photograph? And how do you feel about the floods of uncredited photographs that appear on websites all over the world after a quilt show? Did anyone ask your permission? Do you think they should?


barbara ac said...

I think we are often so keen to preserve a moment for some future replication of the experience that we miss having the experience. Whether it is 'dialogue' with a quilt, playing with the grandchildren, or watching a sunset or . . If we could find ways of living the experience more fully while it is happening, and then maybe making a note of some kind about something we have gained or learned from it, or even something we particularly appreciated about it. But it can be hard to let go of the desire to 'keep' something.

Linda said...

I belonged to the click, flash brigade once, and certainly before it became the extreme sport it is these days. The only thing I found from the experience was what I already knew - that certain colours and styles appeal more than others!

On the other hand, when you are out and about and something you see makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up then the camera is a must.

BUT - experience first, photograph second has become a kind of mantra for me.

DubiQuilts said...

You post was written about me. At the International Quilt Festival in Chicago this past spring I took over 300 photos. An over view, close up and the artist statement. I took these photos because 1). I am overwhelmed by quilts, quilters imagination, fabric choices, quilting, and design. 2) I posted the photos online so others could see the show. I posted the artist statement so credit could be given to the artist. I did get feedback and all thanking me for posting the photos. A few of the artist also sent thanks because they could not be at the show. They also appreciated that I included their statements.

Kristin La Flamme said...

I'm all for taking pictures to share the experience, or remember a color combination, bit of special fabric, a technique, whatever -- but not at the expense of experiencing the artwork up close and personal first. That's why we're there at the show, right? To see all that luscious texture and detail that just does not come across in photos. If one is to post the pictures publicly, though, I think credit needs to be given (hence snapping the info next to the quilt as well __ it's so much easier than coordinating a notebook and camera at the same time). As for catalogs, I might take a picture of one or two quilts to spark in my memory why they knocked my socks off, but do I want to pay to live with all 25 (or however many there were)? Usually not.

Anonymous said...

And this from the woman who was more than a little ticked off by herself for forgetting to bring her own camera along with her to the FOQ?..............

marion said...

This is true. I was ticked off. Mainly because I was writing a review, and I wanted to take photos of the show I was reviewing. And also of the people I was meeting. I do *genuinely* very rarely take pictures of other peoples' quilts.

Sassenach said...

I first noticed it at the International Machine Quilting show in 2001. I'd be looking at a quilt, either from a couple feet away or even within a foot, and some woman with a camera would stick her head in front of mine to take a photo without so much as an "excuse me." A camera seems to convey (in the mind of the bearer) a right to occupy space, akin to some parents with their truck-size strollers.

I do take flashless pictures, to document color combinations or techniques that catch my eye. When I post photos, I am careful to include credit. To date, those photos have always been of "amateur" quilters, not professional artists. I am interested to know where professionals stand on this.

I recall seeing an extensive post of quilts from the last Paducah, KY, USA show. The blogger noted that the photos all have pictures of people in them in order to comply with the rules of posting pictures. Is anyone else aware of such rules?

Peg Keeney said...

I rarely take pictures at quilt shows and never at an exhibit, except of my own work. Perhaps if I were writing a review of work that I was not familiar with I would ask to take a photograph. However I would rather ask the artist for jpegs.
As for catalogues, I know they are expensive, but in some way I feel that it is a way to support fiber art. As a fiber artist I support may efforts that are aimed towards art qult being taken seriously in the world of fine art.

Omega said...

I remember going to a quilt show in Devon on the theme of Rise and Shine, and was appalled that a busload of visitors arrived, flashed and snapped their way quickly round each quilt and then left for their refreshments!

I do take photographs of something I want to remember. The photo does trigger the complete memory for me - sounds and smells and emotions as well as the visual. But I do buy catalogues too - I not only know how much their sales go towards the cost of the whole show, but books are my extravagance.

As for putting photos up on a blog. I think that they should be acknowledged as often as possible. If one puts a piece of work up for exhibition in public and allows photographs to be taken, then one leaves oneself open for all opinions.

I think that an interesting question is whether the maker and/or the exhibition organiser should allow photography, because the copyright of the photograph belongs to the photographer.

Sally said...

I'm one of those dreadful people who take take umpteem photos of quilts. I NEVER ask people to move, most of the time I don't mind the people in front of one area, and if I want the whole quilt I'll wait until there is a gap.
I find looking at things at shows totally a waste of time. Too noisy, and too stressful. I take high quality photos at about 4-5mb. This enables me to to see the whole and to get up close and personal with a piece of work when I get home.
I see now that the Pacucah people produce a CD of all the quilts for you to buy. I think this is brilliant providing the quality is up to scratch. I can't comment on the quality of the images as despite having ordered one from last year's show and having sent them copies of my email receipt and my credit card statement, I've received nothing from them as yet. No reply, no CD. Good idea in principle though.

deb said...

I took a lot of pictures at Quilt National in 05 and I see what you mean about the disconnect. There were many photos where I really did not remember seeing the real piece and the few quilts that I did spend a lot of time with and captured with my memory, the pictures I took don't do them justice.
I did a lot better remembering the artist's name and then finding them on the web later on. More often than not, they have professional quality photos on a website.

Felicity said...

Nothing beats seeing a quilt in the flesh but at the FOQ last year I ended up rushing around taking photos with only a brief look at the quilts as there wasn't any time to take them all in. At home I can zoom right in and see the detail. I think it's easier to study composition from photos too when you're now wowed by colour and embellishments. It's also difficult to fully concentrate at shows - they are very stressful and tiring for me. ( I did buy the Husqavarna catalogue rather than take photos. Knowing I could see them there meant I could relax and take my time over them.)
I wouldn't like to get into the rights and wrongs of copyright but there are a lot of quilts that don't get any exposure on the web. Many groups talk about this quilt or that quilt but how do you get to see them if no-one is prepared or allowed to publish?

vickyth said...

While I'm flattered that folks want to take photos, I am sometimes reluctant to let them. It's not greed or snootiness, just me wanting to maintain copyright control over my images. If asked, I generally say, "sure, as long as it's for personal use only and not going to be put on the web or circulated in any way." I know I'm relying on the integrity of visitors to the gallery when I do this, but you have to trust people at least a little. If I see a photo of my work online that I didn't take or authorize a gallery to use, I get a bit steamed though. After all, once photos are taken and popped up, credit for the work can be claimed by any number of people and it's far too easy to print from images these days.

I guess I'm just a bit careful. I rarely say "no" to people who ask, but I do like to be credited with my own work and I appreciate a) being asked and b) maintaining some sort of control over images of my work.

But that's me. I also never photograph other peoples' work without permission for the same reasons - it's not mine to do with as I like.

The Wittering Rainbow said...

Yes, I like to take photos at shows, not masses of them, just the ones that are special in some way to me - because they're gorgeous or have an idea that I would like to remember. I also take a sketch book for notes and do little drawings, but this has become increasingly difficult at big shows such as foq as you can't find the space/chairs to sit and draw. If photography is wrong then so is taking notes. I see nothing wrong in taking pictures at shows. The entry form for the FOQ says quite clearly that if you enter you are also giving permission for your work to be photographed and/or published and from memory, it doesn't specify by who the permission applies to.

In my own little local exhibitions, I've always hung a notice saying No Photos please. This is because I know of one local lady who photographs stuff with the specific idea of copying the quilt herself, and that freaks me out a bit.

I've only just discovered that the copyright of photos belongs to the photographer, so will make sure that I note that on any photos I put on my blog in future. I always identify the quilter if I can - it's very important for the quilter's copyright if they have one, but also for my understanding of the quilt and what's going on in the quilty world.

The Wittering Rainbow said...

ps, (sorry to go on!) but my comment above applies mostly to amateur quilt shows. The "professionals" shows and stands are different for me. If the maker is there, I ask permission, if not, I have to be honest and say I give a quick snap as an aide memoire. If I can afford it, I always buy a catalogue of work by the makers I love, because the photographic reproductions in the catalogues are usually (not always!) better than mine.

Liz said...

I usually limit myself to about 15 photos at quilt shows - it helps me to evaluate and select what pieces I like and why.
I am in favour of photos appearing on peoples blogs. Many shows don't have comprehensive websites, and it is great seeing what work is being shown at the big shows abroad, however I do believe the artist/maker should be accredited, it is extrememly unfair not to do this.

vickyth said...

The area of copyright gets murky when photos get involved. Technically, the artist owns the copyright to the image they have created. If you then take a photograph, you own the rights to the photo BUT (at least here) the artist still owns the right to the image in your photo and has a certain rights thereto.

There's a big difference between quilt shows (like the one in Houston, say) and gallery shows. At quilt shows, there seems to be a policy of allowing photos. Most galleries require that the photographer have permission first. Probably because of the money at stake. Try taking a photo in a museum or large gallery sometime and I guarantee that they'll ask you to stop.

I can definitely see the appeal of photos in large quilt shows, though, as trying to remember everything would be mind-boggling!

Susan Sanborn North said...

I wish more shows would ban photography AND enforce it. I went to an art gallery opening last night (no quilts alas). At the entrance they had big signs saying "NO PHOTOGRAPHY." Inside, you could not look anywhere without seeing someone clicking away with a cell phone camera, a digital camera, and even some video cameras. At one point I counted four different cell phones held up and pointed at the same piece of art. Security guards stood by and did nothing.

Jan said...

I generally don't take photos at quilt shows but made an exception last January at the international show in Tokyo. Photography was allowed, the catalog was pathetic (quilt shots smaller than 2" square) and the quilts were so unusual in so many ways that I was getting overwhelmed just walking around looking at them in person. I never would've remembered details once I left.
I did post a photo album on my blog to share these gorgeous quilts with others. Unfortunately, I couldn't credit the individual quilters as the show credits were only written in Japanese.
All that said, even though it was allowed, I did feel a little uncomfortable snapping shots at the show.

Karoda said...

I enjoy learning photography and try to have my camera with me at all times and especially like taking images, including quilts or art that move me personally as a way to document my emotions, experiences and life in general. I buy art photograph books and enjoy them and would be tickled if 100 years from now someone found my images and included them in a book on life in the 21st century.

As for blogging photos of quilt exhibits, I try my best to be respectful when I put up an image of anyone's work. I've done it because I've sincerely appreciated other bloggers who've shared photos of shows that I know I'll never travel to or see. If there is a no photography rule, I always hope I can find an online link to include in a blog post of the artist.

I made a recent mistake on including work that I shouldn't have and then thought about why it happened,...I have to remind myself that blogging is a public forum even though my guiding focus is that I blog for myself first and foremost.

Anonymous said...

>The blogger noted that the photos all have pictures of people in them in order to comply with the rules of posting pictures. Is anyone else >aware of such rules?

I find the comments of sassenach rather naive. I am bemused by many of the attitudes.

Does one consider asking a group of perfect strangers for individual model's release documents and signatures before posting these photos in a public place.

Consider, if you will, what might happen if a battered woman, hiding out in another local were identified, found, and harmed by your theory of photographing strangers makes photographing the copyrighted work of quilters and or artists "OK"? ? ?

Sassenach said...

Anonymous name calling. My, that's a way to get your point across convincingly.

For the benefit of others, I've found the link to the Paducah quilt show gallery that I listed. According to the site, it was an AQS requirement to have people in the photographs for use as press photos. The standing of web sites and bloggers as journalists is a subject of considerable debate in the U.S.

Here's the link: