On Thursday, I went into New York to take pictures at The Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA. My idea was to photograph people looking at the art. This was great fun! Some of the art is pretty challenging to understand, and so I tried to capture some sense of people struggling with what to make of the work. And I found a lot of humor. For example, in the image above, I’m imagining that LBJ, known for his expansive ego, is not happy that he isn’t the center of attention.
This fellow walked right into the middle of the art. I’m wondering if the sculpture made more sense for him this way. A guard came right over and shooed him away.
One of the things I noticed is that people are drawn to art that features colors they like. This woman is obviously partial to yellow. I saw this over and over again in my day at the museum.
Also, I noticed everyone has a different body language when looking at art. This woman always had one foot up on her toes – I have 5 images of her looking at different paintings – all with the same foot posture – sometimes it was the left foot.
In shooting these images, I was trying to get one person and one work of art. This is not easy in a crowded museum! I was also trying to keep at least one edge – of an art frame or a doorway – squared up with one edge of the image.
This guard was making notes. After years of looking at the red painting, had he finally figured it out and wanted to write the “meaning” in his notebook? Or was he just making his grocery list?
In most of the pictures I took, the subject was not aware I was photographing them. This is perfectly legal – you can shoot anyone in a public space indoors or out. But I struggled a bit with it. Was I invading their privacy in some way? Was I being a voyeur – or worse, a stalker ( I did follow a few people through several galleries) ? Sometimes, when I got caught, I’d just ask the person if it was OK to take their picture. Everyone said yes, but the shots I got this way didn’t look as natural. I’d suggest – “Just ignore me and look at the art.” But there was always a sense the person was conscious of me and posing to some degree. So, I mostly tried to stay incognito.
Another thing I learned is that most people don’t spend much time with each piece of art – often 5 seconds or less. So, I had to shoot fast. If I found someone sketching, like the woman above, I was in luck – I knew I had a bit of time and also knew the sketcher would be so wrapped up in the drawing that she would be less likely to notice me.
OK, the basketballs floating in a fish tank. I’d seen this at a show at the Whitney Museum some years ago. I don’t pretend to be an modern art expert, but I do have some issues to work out here. Is this fellow listening to the audio guide – or calling his son and saying, “Charlie, you’ll never guess where I found your missing basketballs!”
I’ll post some more pictures in another blog post in the next day or two.
I’d love to know what you think of the images – and the idea of of shooting people looking at art.
One last image, below. This is the only one I did pose.
Working both in the studio and on location, photographer Blake Robinson serves the Connecticut communities of Darien, New Canaan, Stamford, Norwalk, Westport and Greenwich.