Three variations on the theme:
1.) Stumbled across an interesting site a few weeks back: Strictly No Photography. In its current state, the idea may be more interesting than the execution–users register and upload their photographs of people, places, and things that are not supposed to be photographed. The site advertises itself as featuring images “from art galleries to war zones,” with images “that range from the ordinary to the profound.”
Most, however, are ordinary. The fact that a photograph was illegally taken isn’t enough to make it sexy, and most of the places that do not allow photography are more worried about the impact of photographic technology on their subjects–e.g., fading from flashes or loss of the commercial possibilities of image reproduction rights–than afraid of what might happen if the subjects were widely seen.
2.) A far more professional (that’s a genre marker, not a slight) version of this project can be found in Taryn Simon’s An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, which chronicles the photographer’s successful attempts over 4 years to access sites where photography would normally be taboo or forbidden across the US. [Update: I was recently watching an interview with Taryn Simon and Charlie Rose that Cara Phillips posted to her blog Ground Glass. It struck me that Simon is very concerned with emphasizing that her photographs are “not stolen”—meaning that she’s gotten permission for every site she’s photographed, a claim that she backs up by pointing out that she shoots on a cumbersome, highly visible 4×5 camera. That’s another way her work differs from the kinds of things you’ll see on Strictly No Photography. It allies her more closely with explorer/photographers of the 19th century, who sought to expose viewers to unique subjects using luscious large format plates and without any interest in perpetrating transgressive acts.]
3.) The New York Times recently reported on the difficulty of gaining access to James Turrell’s Roden Crater. Photographs by those who have gotten access to this more intriguingly forbidden site are posted both with the article and on Flickr. Turrell is one of those installation artists who almost seems to be thinking about his work photographically, trying to figure out what will make his pieces look most impressive in photographs. The Roden Crater is beautifully geometric and abstract in some of these “illegal” pictures. They’re the sorts of views that, ideally, I’d like to see collected on Strictly No Photography.
Image © New York Times 2007. Photo by Florian Holzherr.