Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Through a Lens Brightly, Or Not At All. Teatro Festivals.

Michael Sedano

I chalked it up to rasquachi art enterprises and let it go. I got a copy of the publication in the mail and a private apology from the publisher who’d stolen a photograph I’d shared on social media. "I couldn't find you," he said. Now I watermark anything I post.  But it wasn’t rasquachi when a Madrileño website splashed another photograph, then groused at my fee when I invoiced them. The editor vowed never to do business with me again.

So there’s a truism in business: It’s intellectual property theft only when you get caught. Photographers', and people's rights to memories, get caught up in some institutions’ presumptions that someone in their public will make public use of images without approval nor compensation. Maybe it’s the business dictum “you don’t give away what you sell” operating in those “no photography” galleries, who have a gift shop to support. But that’s a rare attitude among first-rate places like Los Angeles’ Autry museum. That's why the prohibition on photography in one show there is so perplexing.

Most major institutions permit photography. The Louvre. The British Library. Museo del Prado. You can’t photograph Guernica in Reina Sofia. El Castillo de Chapultepec used to allow cameras, more recently I was informed a guard would take my camera if I raised it. El Museo de la Antrolopología has no qualms about lenses. In LA, LACMA, the Norton Simon, the Huntington all allow photographs, save an occasional show.
In pre-prohibition years, the foto captures the scale of Gozalez-Camarena's
magnificent evocation of 500 años cultural fusion.
There’s a special irony in prohibiting photos at a photo show, the long-sequestered negatives of La Raza newspaper. Blacking out photography is like the images came up for air, saw the light of day for a few weeks, then sank back into memory with nary an artifact to mark their place.. A third rueful irony comes in the p.r. copy for the exhibition.

archive of nearly 25,000 images created by these photographers, now housed at the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA, provides the foundation for an exhibition exploring photography’s role in articulating the social and political concerns of the Chicano Movement during a pivotal time in the art and history of the United States.

If photography still plays a role in “articulating etc.” there’s a big lacuna where this historic exhibit came and went with only a few “official” frames. No one is welcome to join excited gente at the exhibition, sharing reflections on important images and memories of coming-of-age events. Maybe someone sees themselves and wants a before and after portrait.

Nope. Nel. Chale. No one can grab La Raza memories off an Autry wall.

Someone—the Autry, the curator, UCLA, La Raza photographers—doesn’t want those personal images to exist. No cameras. No photography. What you remember is all you will ever have. Eventually, the exhibit will be a smear of good feeling on memory's windshield

No photography. It’s a challenging mentality. I find it mindless. In businesses other than art museums, flexibility is the best policy. Zero tolerance answers any suggestion to alter the policy. I’ve heard the arguments from curators and random Facebook flamers. No photos protects intellectual property. Punto. An absolute.

At dinner one evening I enjoyed a table conversation with various NHCC gente including the curator of the centro’s stunning El Torreón. Frederico Vigil covered the interior of the 45 foot tall cone with a raza history epic in fresco. No photos, the museum wants to control how their images are used in public. And the minimal likelihood of copyright violation by a private user? The museum has no control over who takes a photo, there might be a pro in the tower. Any private user could splash an image on their personal website without attribution, just a cool image. To assuage hurt feelings, NHCC offers a spectacular media experience on the internet. If you don’t have a screen, you’re out of luck. No personal fotos allowed.

I was happy to see the directors relent. Of course, I can take fotos of the people taking Vigil’s tour, just no direct frames of only wall.

That’s a really excellent compromise the Autry would do well to emulate. Those snapshots add to the fun of attending art shows. Fun becomes a compelling reason to return. Jackbooted absolutism gives one pause, what else will they control? Can I trust the snack bar?

The most unfortunate harm of all in the complexities of the decision to prohibit photographs falls on individuals.

What the museum or owner fears--the photograph—is a prosthesis for memory. For gente with short or damaged memories, especially, but for anyone, a foto is an aide-memoire providing substance not otherwise obtainable. So here is an ultimate irony. One’s most personal intellectual property--knowledge and experience—suffers abuse in an effort to prevent abusing intellectual property.

Magu and Beto de la Rocha pose in front of Oscar Castillo's © foto of  them with Los 4, taken 40 years earlier. Obviously,
not prohibiting fotos allowed this now rare image to exist at all. QEPD Magu.
One internet flamer huffed that I don’t know anything about curation and intellectual property if I think the Autry’s prohibition on memory mindless. Gratuitously the flamer told me not to attend if I felt that way! What dire offense from foto denial springs. Of course I’m going to attend and not take fotos. I’m a member and entry is free. Wouldn't it be ironic if I get there and discover the rumor about no fotos is chisme?

Photographer’s note; the Autry’s dim lighting makes grabbing a foto not really worth the effort. But ni modo. No fotos. Punto.

Encuentro De Las Américas Coming to LATC

Three weeks, fourteen productions, from the Américas, in English, in Spanish. Los Angeles' most local theatre west of the river.

Click here for details and tickets. https://www.encuentrodelasamericas.org

Chicago's Latino Museum in Teatro Fest

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