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The F-Stops Here: A New Photo Policy for the IMA

Next Tuesday, March 1st, the IMA officially adopts its new Photography Policy for the entire Museum campus, including 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens, and Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana. This new policy comes out of a need to further protect the works of art in the collection and avoid any potential infringements of copyright laws. As a general rule of thumb, visitors and professional photographers will be able to identify the areas/pieces that cannot be photographed by looking for this symbol:

As some of you may recall having read on the IMA’s Blog last year in Picture This by Tad Fruits, the season of “peak shutterbug activity” will quickly be upon us. We would like to take this opportunity to inform and educate those who want to bring their families, friends, or clients for their next photo shoot to the IMA grounds.

For the general visitor to the IMA very little is changing. We simply ask that you remain cognizant of your surroundings – both the artworks and other visitors. You may photograph for your private use, which includes sharing images with your family and friends through social media sites like Facebook and Flickr.

We ask that all visitors, professional photographers, and guests do not walk in any plant beds or climb upon any of the sculptures. We want the grounds to be as beautiful in October as they are in April. This request is as much for your safety as it is for the safety, longevity, and conservation of the artworks at the IMA.

Acceptable Visitor Photography

Unacceptable Visitor Photography - please remain outside the landscaping.

If you want to see our objects conservator have a coronary, then by all means continue climbing on the artworks. But really, do you want that on your conscience?

Definitely Not Kosher Photography (image from TripAdvisor)

The LOVE sculpture brings up the tricky issue of copyright, which most of the sculptures on the grounds are protected by. The IMA is required to contact the copyright holder or their representative anytime we want to reproduce an image that includes a copyrighted work of art. These uses include, but are not limited to, printed publications, marketing (both online and printed), and any commercially available products for our retail shop. While many find the concept of copyright annoying when they want to use an image, it is a necessary evil. I am sure that none of you professional photographers out there want any unauthorized uses of your images.

Speaking of professional photographers, many of you will note several changes for your upcoming visits to the IMA, but it is our hope that this will lead to a reduction in the number of competing shoots in one day and in the same area(s) of the grounds. All locations of the IMA now require a permit, and no, this does not count:

Private events already scheduled will take precedence over anyone just showing up for an impromptu shoot – without your pass you will be asked to leave, so please display it prominently.

Not to be the photo bad guys, but with any luck and a lot of your cooperation, the IMA collections and grounds will endure for several future generations to enjoy and select as their photo local of choice!

Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Photography

16 Responses to “The F-Stops Here: A New Photo Policy for the IMA”

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    Stacey Says:

    I am a gallery specialist at a museum in South Florida, and we do not permit photography even of tribal art (African masks, Pre Columbian pottery, etc), even though the “artists” are deceased for a thousand years and don’t have copyright protection for their “works.” I am not totally sure why, however. Thoughts, anyone?

    Tribal Art Hunter | Professional Art Consulting and Buying

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    Kiel Says:

    This stinks, I didn’t even read through the whole policy. Can your objects conservator sandblast the base of the LOVE statue so I don’t have rust in my pictures. :-)

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    Joe Mac Pherson Says:

    Greetings from Studio City, in L.A.!! I visited your Museum extensively, in May 2010 and August 2008. I plan on returning. I agree with your Photography Policy. It makes perfect sense. I always bring my camera to art museums, taking pictures of my favorite works. However, I respect the No Photos signs when I see them affixed to placards adjacent to select works of art. I must mention one crucial point you neglected to bring up:
    NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY, ever!! People really need to know the critical impact flash photos have to art! Whenever I see someone using flash, I do my utmost to politely tell them why flash is truly detrimental to prints, paintings and lithographs. If they continue regardless of my concern, I find the nearest Museum Staff Associate and inform them of the individuals. I want your Museum to stay as superb as it is!!

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    Great post Anne! As the objects conservator here, and the guy responsible for caring for the outdoor sculpture, I want to say that I hope that this policy works to give people great access to our grounds and artworks, and keeps them safe.

    I also want to add a more specific reason not to climb on the LOVE sculpture in particular. It is made of Cor-Ten steel, which is in some ways is a very stable material, but in other ways is very sensitive to the touch. As Don Lippincott (the owner of the foundry that fabricated our LOVE) says in the recent book “Large Scale,”

    “The problem with it [Cor-Ten steel], which everybody is always quiet about is that the surface is delicate. If someone paints on it or rubs it, it’s quite hard to clean. In fact it’s impossible to clean and have it blend in with the rest of the surface that hasn’t been makred.” (page 236).

    So, love our LOVE, please.

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    Anne Young Says:

    Thanks Richard! Fingers crossed this helps keep the artworks safer.

    Joe – Thank you for your input about Flash Photography. While I didn’t discuss it here, the policy does state that no flash photography is allowed.

    Stacey – The only thought I’ve got for you is perhaps conservation concerns as a reason to restrict photography of those types of objects. It doesn’t sound at all like the type of thing to be a copyright issue.

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    chldofthebalcony Says:

    I think that the policy makes perfect sense indoors, however for the outside area I disagree. It is such a beautiful place and SOOO many people were doing photographs there. I think they will see a large decrease in numbers of visitors because often times people were there to get photographs taken. There have been days out there that at least 50 photographers were out taking photos….

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    Jenny Says:

    Childofthebalcony – thanks for the feedback! We always love to hear what our visitors have to say. With that said, we were getting some complaints from visitors that the amount of photographers on the grounds was sometimes distracting to their visit. We do hope that this policy will help people enjoy the park and the gardens and grounds, rather than turn people away from it.

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    Amanda Says:

    Well, this new policy has turned me away from the museum for sure. I understand the policy for indoor photography, but what is the use of having all that beautiful outdoor garden area if people can’t enjoy capturing their moments in it??? I think it’s ridiculous to limit photography at AN art museum. Photography is an ART!

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    Rory Says:

    I’m sure there are patrons who complain about photographers, and I’m sure that photographers complain about patrons who obliviously walk through their shots. What does IMA consider a “pro photographer?” I recently bought a pretty nice camera, but I’m not a pro photographer by any means. If I choose to come to the IMA to practice shooting photos, what are they going to base my level of photographic expertise on? (“That camera looks pretty nice- better single him out from the rest.”) It sounds completely subjective. If I can’t practice my photography hobby, IMA could be thwarting my potential of becoming a “great artist.” :)

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    Rory Says:

    The more I read this and think about it, the more it sounds like a cop-out and a way for IMA to make money.

    “This new policy comes out of a need to further protect the works of art in the collection and avoid any potential infringements of copyright laws.” That’s just plain BS. If I walk into your facility and take a photo, YOU are not liable for anything. All you did was display the artwork. If I take a photo of that artwork and I use the photo in a way that I should not, then I am the one who would get in trouble for “potential infringements of copyright laws.” IMA has no reason to worry about this at all.

    One of my friends has already looked into the “pro photographer” part of it, and shared with me this info: “Professional photo shoots require a “permit” for all photography and video shoots. A one year pass is $250 and a single day pass is $50.” Clearly this is a new way to make money off of something that they were not previously making money off of.

    If a particular photographer is out there twice a month using the IMA as a background for senior pictures, engagement/ wedding pictures, etc., then I don’t see a problem with IMA charging a modest fee for them using the property. After all- that photographer is clearly using IMA to make money, so it is only fair that they give a little bit back for the use of the location. However, if I come to IMA to stroll around and enjoy the property on a nice day, and I get singled out because I happen to have a nicer camera than some people, then I have a huge problem with that. Why bother ever returning if I’m going to be singled out? I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to visiting friends, because what do people do when they are on vacations? They take pictures! I wouldn’t send my friends to a place where they might be hassled.

    Like I said, the more I read this article and think about it, I think it stinks. Why not just deal with the people who are breaking the rules? That’s what you have employees for! Let them enforce the rules of no climbing on the sculptures, etc. If someone takes photos of something they are not supposed to take photos of, deal with that person.

    Keep IMA people-friendly if you want people to be there.

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    Rory-Your comment makes it seem as if you believe the employees at the IMA would not be “people-friendly” in asking photographers about their photography use. If you ever have an interaction with an employee that was not courteous you might want to let us know. I think it is the intent of the staff to protect the artwork in all its permutations as well as allow our visitors to enjoy the museum and grounds, including photographers.

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    Rory Says:

    No, my comment specifically asks how they are going to determine if I am a “professional” photographer. As I said- it sounds completely subjective. I want to know how someone who doesn’t know me or any other patron can decide if we are amateur or pro photographers. I’m willing to bet that it will be based on appearance. (“Nice camera… must be a pro.”)

    I clearly supported the IMA in instances where someone is using the location to make money. I also specifically stated that I think IMA employees should deal with specific patrons who break the rules. My problem is not with the IMA employees- it is with this policy.

    I don’t support punishing everyone because of a few bad apples. This policy looks like it was painted with a very wide brush stroke. I don’t like it when people or businesses hide behind policies that don’t make sense, such as “copyright laws.” IMA is not responsible for someone else misusing photos of artwork- that responsibility rests with the person who misuses the image. If an IMA employee sees someone taking photos where the “no photography” sign is posted, just deal with that person.

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    Rory Says:

    The link to the policy is working again. Looks like I was right- it is extremely subjective. This is exactly what I was talking about:

    “What is considered professional photography equipment?

    The use of a tripod, monopod, lights, umbrellas, diffusers, detachable flash, multiple lenses, large photography bags, etc.”

    …and this one…

    “I’m just a visitor to the IMA, but I own a SLR or DSLR “professional” camera. Can I bring this camera to photograph while visiting the museum with my family?

    Yes. As long as you only have the camera. The addition of multiple lenses, large photography bag, tripod, etc. (see question 3) will give the impression you are here for a photography shoot and not just visiting the museum.”

    So, if I show up with a nice camera and 2 lenses, I’m within a hair of violating the policy. Why? Because it gives the IMPRESSION that I’m there for a shoot. (Exactly as I had described in my earlier posts.) If you have a nice camera and an extra lens, the IMPRESSION is enough to get you booted off of the grounds. (Note that there is no provision stating what will happen if I say, “I’m just a visitor with a nice camera,” or how they will decide anything.)

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    Anne Young Says:

    Rory – Thank you for your feedback about the photography policy. The IMA does have some level of liability when visitors/photographers on the grounds use images of our artworks. While we do not hold the copyright for the contemporary works, they are in our collection for us to preserve and protect. Ultimately, when an artist or their representative finds their work reproduced, the IMA is one of the first places contacted to find out if we provided the image. If we did not, it is then a lot of work by the artist, their representative, and the IMA staff to track down the origin of the reproduction and determine if it is fair use or in violation of copyright.

    The photography passes are meant for anyone doing a photography shoot, particularly of people. The general visitor (member or not) does not need a pass to photograph the grounds. The problem with identifying the section of the policy for professional use was that we had people quite obviously doing “professional” work, yet claiming to be amateurs or semi-professionals. Hence why it is now identified as anyone doing a photography shoot.

    While the enforcement and the policy are by no means perfect, they are a start at trying to protect the grounds and the artworks on the grounds. As such, they type of equipment used is a baseline by which our Security and Visitor Services staff can begin to monitor and enforce the policy. Our staff has been very good since the updates to the policy in June to discuss with visitors both their equipment and intentions on the grounds to determine if their use requires a pass or not.

    I hope this begins to answer your concerns about the photography policy. If you have any other questions, please contact the Rights & Reproductions Department (923-1331 ext. 171 or

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    Photographer Says:

    I wasn’t thrilled with the new policy, but when I did buy a pass for myself and my assitant photographer for wedding photography on the grounds, I was approached by the golf-cart patrol asking to see the pass (that I was WEARING). After seeing that I had a pass, they continued to ask questions, radioing the info into some headquarters to check it all out….all the while my bride and groom are standing there, sweating.

    I was rather upset that I had paid a pretty hefty price for the passes, and then continually got harassed about it as I was trying to work. I followed all rules to a “T”, but had a hard time even getting my job done.
    They even asked if the videographer had a pass. He was not with us, I did not know him, but they still insisted on telling ME that he was not to shoot video.
    Uh…tell HIM that, not me!

    I have not been back since.

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