The Curse of the Camera Phone #TravelThursday #Paris

Gary and I visited Paris at the end of January as I have long wished to see Eugene Delacroix’s painting ‘The Death of Sardanapalus’ around which my WIP revolves. While in Paris we visited the Musee Rodin – dedicated to the works of French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

One of Rodin’s most famous works ‘The Thinker’ is there, set in the beautiful garden. We went out to see it. There was a little queue. We stood for a while, watching this queue. Each person waited patiently, then walked up to the sculpture, sat on the plinth, took up the famous pose, and their companion snapped away. Then they got up and walked away.


Wonder what he thinks about it all?

We watched for a few minutes and not a single person actually looked up at the sculpture itself. Not a single one.

We spent a good hour or so wandering through the gardens looking at Rodin’s beautiful works, then we wandered through the museum itself, looking at the interesting displays (the work that goes into sculpting – my goodness, it’s like a science!). It’s an absolutely fantastic place, one of the best museums I’ve ever visited. And Rodin looks strangely like an old Tom Hardy! But as we walked round we noticed that the majority of visitors were looking at everything through their phones, snapping away.


Tom Hardy’s future look?

The day before, we’d been to the Louvre, where all anyone seemed to want to do was to take a selfie with the Mona Lisa. Earlier that morning we’d been to the Musee d’Orsay , where again we had to keep ducking to avoid starring in other people’s photos. That afternoon we went on to Musée de L’Orangerie, home of Monet’s stunning murals. Monet envisaged the murals as providing a place of calm, of retreat, somewhere in the middle of busy Paris to sit and be quiet after a long, hard day. We duly sat and relaxed and took in the beauty of these amazing works. And across our sightline every couple of seconds someone would walk, taking a panoramic picture through their phone.


Guia Besana for The New York Times

Why do people do this? Seriously, I really don’t understand.

I do take the occasional photo, although I’m not that great at it, but to me, as someone who isn’t a professional photographer, a photo is something I use to remember a good time. The photos I’ve got of Gary and me in Paris are mainly pretty bad and are the two of us grinning away at the fact that we’re standing in front of Delacroix’s house, or the place where Jim Morrison died. I didn’t take any photos of paintings, or sculptures, because what is the point?

When you look at a painting in real life you realise how no photograph can capture what’s actually there. If I’m standing in front of a Delacroix, or a Monet, or a Rothko, or a beautiful sculpture by Rodin or even an intricate carving in the stonework of a cathedral, I know that if I take a photo of it, I won’t be able to recapture what it looks like, how it makes me feel in that moment. And it wasn’t as if these people were looking at the paintings or the sculptures for a while and then taking a quick snap. No, their whole focus was on taking the photograph. I watched one woman come in to one of the mural rooms. She put her phone to her face, and walked round the whole room, with the phone to her face. Then she walked out. Will she look at that again? What was the point of her going to see those murals?

I don’t want to sound like a snob or pretentious, but I genuinely don’t get it. The age of the camera phone seems to have reduced the beautiful things in life to a list to be ticked off. Trip to Paris? Mona Lisa – tick, here’s the picture to prove it. Venus de Milo – tick. The Thinker? Tick. The Kiss? Tick. And here on Facebook is the picture.

And it’s a picture that will show none of the real beauty of that piece of art. You can’t capture those colours, those lines in a little snap on your phone, however good your phone may be.

And, in my humble opinion, you’ve missed out completely on seeing something really worth seeing. But if you do insist on doing it, then please keep out of my bloody way!


  1. It is maddening isn’t it. My wife and I went to see Coldplay last year. For a significant part of the concert we had to watch around smart phones showing mini Coldplays held high in our lines of sight. Why not buy the DVD if you want to see them on a small screen?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I completely agree with you Alison. This is not as highbrow but I went to the Harry Potter studios earlier this year and experienced the same. People just walked up to exhibits, snapped, or selfied (made that up!) and walked away. They showed no interest in what was on show at all which I found astonishing. It seemed a total been there done that exercise as far as I could see.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. They really were! I had a great day out with my daughter. This camera thing though reminds me of when the children were young and we had a video camera and used to film them occasionally. I hated being behind the lens (not that I liked being in front of it much either!) because it immediately separated me from the action, and I feel this behaviour is similar. It removes you from actually feeling the moment.

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  3. I completely agree with all you say, Alison. It is maddening and I don’t see the point. Even on holiday on La Gomera last year we were astonished to see people stop their cars at various viewpoints, leap out, pose for selfies and drive off again – not for one minute actually looking at the stunning landscapes they had reduced to a background to their pouting poses.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m a useless photographer, too. My sister and I can take the same shot and mine is blah while hers is amazing – which is probably why I like to stand and stare as I try to imprint it on my memory.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I share your frustration so, so much. I remember my first visit to see the Mona Lisa – and I was so disappointed by it! So many people swarmed over it, some even going as far as using flash photography. I went back a few years later, but to be honest, I don’t think anyone who went actually was there to appreciate the painting. Only time will tell if these crowds will thin out…

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  5. I know exactly what you mean, and I think you have it in a nutshell with the tick list. My friend Amy went travelling around Indonesia, Aus and South America for a year, and she said that half the people she met didn’t seem remotely interested in where they were, only in posting FB pictures of them getting wasted on this and that beach, or this tick list sort of photography.

    It’s the curse of social media – it’s like nothing is worth doing unless it can be recorded and displayed to 400 people on your friends/followers list.

    I don’t want to swear on your blog, so I’ll just say ******* idiots, and leave it at that.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. With you all the way! My first degree was in Art History (medieval specialisation). It was a new department and much of our work involved collecting and then staring at and comparing black and white photos of very obscure buildings and sculpture. We had a new young lecturer who took us on trips in the UK and Europe and insisted that we study the walls properly, before we starting the photography. It was so tempting to click and then a month later compare prints in a warm dry place, but you can see important details, changes of texture, building breaks etc in real life that are lost in photos. I was already a slave to Michelangelo and Rodin in my teens and dragged my mother round Florence and Paris to see it all. Even then (1960s) I was annoyed by the tourists endlessly snapping! At least they didn’t try and put themselves into the shot as well then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did a module on Art History as part of my first degree and I loved it. I’ve always kind of wished that I’d done an Art History degree instead of focusing so much on literature. Maybe that’s something for when I retire!


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