Wednesday, 14 January 2015


I was at the fine arts museum in Brussels the other day, sitting in the room full of Brueghels, looking at one of them. A man came in, stood in front of one of the canvases, lifted his camera, took a photograph of it, swivelled towards the next, took a picture of that one, and continued on, right round the room, until he'd captured an image of every painting there. It took him less than a minute.

I felt sad. He hadn't actually seen any of the pictures. He certainly hadn't looked at them. He'd collected them, like stamps, without enjoying them. But then my daughter showed me this video and I realised I might be telling myself the wrong narrative.

The man had probably been there dozens of times before. He probably knew and loved those paintings. He probably had an invalid relative who was bedridden and unable to ever leave the house, let alone visit a museum. He was probably photographing the pictures in the museum in order to take them home to share with her.

So he wasn't being glib and silly after all; he was being kind and good. He wasn't wasting an opportunity; he was sharing his experience.

I felt much better after I'd thought of this story. Who knows whether it was the man's true story. It was a story I liked. It made me feel happier. And it could be true. It could, possibly, be true.


  1. Perhaps he was a member of a gang of professional art thieves, doing a "reccy".

    1. Those Chapman brothers have corrupted your innocence

  2. Still...I can't help thinking of the old cliche of aboriginal peoples fearing that a photograph can steal one's soul. I wonder if it takes anything out of the paintings....