Three years ago I went to Washington D.C. for my 51st birthday. I had never been. In addition to U.S. History, I am also interested in art, and a lot of my favorite artwork is housed in the various Smithsonian museums.
One of the paintings that I really wanted to see was Luncheon of the Boating Party, or, in French Le déjeuner des canotiers. It’s on display at The Phillips Collection, an art museum founded by Duncan Phillips in 1921, and located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington D.C. It was painted by Renoir. I like the painting so much that I even know the names of all of the people who are in it. I won’t name them here because, well…saying that you’re kind of a dorky nerd is one thing, but proving it is quite another.
When I first saw it I was like, “Wow, that’s kind of big! Bigger than I thought”. Who would have guessed that 129.9 cm × 172.7 cm was actually that large? Not me. I’m not really good at figuring out how big something is by just seeing some numbers on a page. Not to mention the fact that it’s in centimeters and I live in the U.S., where we do inches.
Anyway, while I was there I wanted to take a picture of it. I asked the security guard and he said that it was okay. I had been admonished the day before because I was snapping away at a temporary Alexander Caulder exhibit. The sign above the entrance to the exhibit had said NO PHOTOS, but somehow I missed it. So, I got in trouble. Oops, my bad.
While I was taking pictures of Le déjeuner des canotiers, there was a kid next to me who had a video camera. He looked like he was about 13 or 14. He had the lense up to his eye. The security guard ran over and informed the kid that ‘while pictures with no flash were allowed , video cameras were not’.
“I’m not filming”, the kid said. “I’m taking pictures”.
“That looks like a video camera to me”, the guard said.
Of course I had to come to the kid’s defense, so I opened my big mouth and chimed in.
He looked at the kid’s camcorder and then at my camera. He had a confused look on his face. Kind of like he didn’t know if he was looking at a swimming pool or a cement pond.
“I’m sorry”, he said. “Video Cameras are not allowed”.
I didn’t want to argue with the guy. I didn’t want to get kicked out. I hadn’t seen the Mark Rothko or Mondrian stuff yet.
I was kind of surprised that the camera/video camera issue hadn’t been resolved. IDK. Maybe the guy was new. Or maybe it HAD been resolved and this was just how they dealt with it.
It all kind of makes me miss the old days. You know, when stuff just did one thing. Back when you just took a polaroid shot and stuck it in a scrapbook. Now, everything is more ambiguous and confusing. Digital this. Digital that. This feature. That feature. Log-in. Upload. Resize. And, even if you DO know how something works, you have to try to explain it to somebody who doesn’t. Aargh.