Photography is possession, that's well known. But as many things calling for documentation have already been possessed by the camera and let go into the commons and are available as free information on the internet, there must be another furrow involved, at least for one PaRticularly PRickly PRedicament. I'm writing, of course (because I'm in Paris), about the ubiquitous museum goers who frantically photograph the work on display. They walk up. They snap. They move.
What is the picture to them? It is not, in most cases, a physical memento; it is a firefly bouncing about their memory card jar. As the digital copy of a work of fine art, it can only be AS good as what is already available on Google image, which is accessible by a keyword or two. However, it is likely it will be NOWHERE AS GOOD, considering the photographers are unlikely to have a background in documenting art (which is a profession), their cameras are unlikely to be of high quality, the lighting is unlikely to be complementary for documentation, and there are likely to be factors discouraging quality photography otherwise (like other cultural tourists bogarting the work, obtaining the same photo at the same time.)
Add to this that there is a direct correlation between the fame (only possible through previous documentation and mechanical reproduction) of the work of art and the likelihood that someone will want to photograph it and you have a situation which any disinterested observer would call absurd, illogical, asinine, etc.*
But, this does serve as evidence. Evidence that the drive to photograph is rarely in line with its supposed purpose. The people who take photographs of "Bedroom at Arles" for instance, a work by one of the most famous painters in human history, and not one of his minor works but one of his most essential, do not take it for themselves. It has absolutely no utilitarian purpose for the photographer. They take it, TAKE it, to show they have it.
I have taken this photo of Vincent Van Gogh's most famous painting because I have seen it. I have been there. I will show this picture of a painting I saw so you can see I have been there. You, most likely, have not.
It is then a message to one's social group to let them know that, indeed, you have been somewhere. How do they know? It's you! At the Eiffel Tower! And you! At the Arc D' Triomphe! And, awfully, it's you.. in front of a painting... a famous one... and you were there because you took the picture. And, for a moment, you had something passing as a connection to a piece of artwork. You are connected to the cultural cache of that object, the little amount of aura it holds onto in the face of daily rapes, and the self serving satisfaction in possessing the knowledge that your social group knows that you have seen something they have not. You (whatever you do) are connected to a symbol of western ingenuity and culture and by extension art and the human mind because...
You walked up. You snapped. You moved.
It's not tourism. It's a sexual conquest.
*It can't be as good of a document of the work as it has already been documented. And the main reason they feel driven to document the work is due to the fact THEY HAVE ALREADY SEEN A GOOD PHOTOGRAPH OF IT.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Man pulls out eye and eats it
Woman talks words
Aristocrat dies who hooked me up
Logical conclusion is reached