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-- 26 January, 2005 --

Van Gogh and the security guard


I just had to see Van Gogh! I have more books of his work than I think that we have in the art section of our library at school. I have read all about his tragic life and just love his paintings. So, in this frame of mind, we set off for the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.

To make life easier for the 'old man', we used the lift instead of the stairs and this lead to a tiny little problem for me. I had noticed that although lots of my fellow travellers were carrying their cameras, none seemed to be collecting photographic mementoes of their visit. Never mind, I'm not backward in coming forward so I started to click away at a couple of examples that interested me. Ahh! The Potato Eaters, one of my favourites! Got to have a photo to show I was here.

A voice behind me made me turn.

  "You are not allowed to take photographs here. Didn't you read the sign" said the rather burly female security guard.

  "No," says I, in great innocence "Where was it?"

  "On the stairs where you came up" she said.

  "Oh, well then. That explains it. We used the lift. My husband has difficulty with the stairs" - play the sympathy card.

  "No more photographs" she said and turned away.

Good thing they don't teach the security personnel about digital cameras. I still have the photographs.

Posted by robynls at January 26, 2005 9:37 AM


It must be something about security guards in art galleries/museums, they always seem so downright impolite. I'm enjoying the tales of your European odyssey, you must have come back a real culture vulture! Thankfully, we're getting to experience a bit of it ourselves with you posts and photos.

Posted by: Detlef at January 26, 2005 3:59 PM

The spoil sport! I suppose it must not be fun to wake up every day and know that all you have to do during the day is spoil people's fun! At least you got the one picture - and kept possession of your camera! I can remember touring thru Castle Howard in Yorkshire, England (twice) and not being able to take photos either - it's hard but I guess there's a reason...somewhere. Thanks for sharing the one you did take!

Posted by: Bex at January 26, 2005 9:03 PM

The reason for it is that most tourists use a flash when shooting pics of famous paintings. Those flashes are destroying the paintings slowly, but definitive. (& after shooting playing the innocent one "oh, I'm sorry I didn't want to use a flash")
I can imagine the security guard can get very tired of tourists who do not listen.

Posted by: Marloes at January 30, 2005 8:07 AM

Simple solution to that one, Marloes - no flash photography. Many art galleries and museums have this policy. It means that the canvases are protected and the patrons get to take home their memories. As you will probably guess from the shaky quality of my photo of The Potatoe Eaters, I don't use flash in galleries for just the reason that you mentioned. I hold my breath, brace my arms against my sides and, where possible lean on something solid, like a column or wall.

Even the Rijksmuseum are happy to allow visitors to take photos. I suspect that it is not so much protection of the canvases that they have on mind but rather protection of the profit margin of the gift shop.

Posted by: Robyn at January 30, 2005 9:50 AM

I saw you didn't use flash :)

You can be perfectly right about the profit margin of the gift shop!

Posted by: Marloes at January 30, 2005 6:50 PM

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