Despite What Their Website Says, Taking Pictures In San Francisco’s Museum Of Modern Art Is Cause For Ejection

Thomas Hawk was “forcibly thrown out” of San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art for taking photos in an area where photography is expressly allowed. Hawk had recently purchased a family membership to MOMA in no small part because of a policy change that permitted photography. When he arrived and started snapping away, he was approached by the director of visitor relations, Simon Blint…

Blint explained that photography wasn’t allowed, even though Hawk had confirmed that it was, and then asked two security guards to escort Hawk out.

MOMA’s website states:

Photography is not permitted in the galleries. Flash photography is permitted only with a handheld camera in the Atrium.

So Thomas must have been in the galleries, right? Why else would they kick him out. Well, let’s look at the picture he took:

Ok, then he had to be using something other than a handheld camera. A fancy camera, one with a tripod and a flash.

I was not shooting with a tripod. I was not shooting with a flash. I was being quiet and respectful of the area and the other patrons.

Blint on the other hand was hostile, accusatory and refused to even examine my photographs or allow me to share with him what I was doing with my art. He accused me of using a “telephoto” lens to spy on his staff from the public staircase on the second floor. Blint obviously knows nothing of photography because the 14mm ultra wide angle lens on my camera body was about the furthest thing possible from a telephoto lens. He refused to discuss this, refused to examine my photographs, refused to consider it at all and simply had me ejected with two security guards.


I believe that I was very much targeted in this case because I was using a digital SLR. There were plenty of people taking photographs of the atrium using point and shoots that Simon did not target, but I think that it was the fact that I was using a larger DSLR that made me a target. Rather than try to understand what I and my art were about Simon felt the smarter way to deal with the situation was simply to kick me out of his museum.

Tell us, our charmingly creative commenters, what would be the best way for Simon Blint to apologize to Thomas?

Update: A witness chimes in over at SFist:

I was at the museum on Friday and saw this whole thing go down. Thomas Hawk’s account of what happened is unabashedly one-sided. What he neglects to mention is that he was standing on a balcony with his camera pointed down, aiming directly into the shirt/cleavage of one of the female employees working at the museum. Simon Blint asked Thomas Hawk to stop taking photos in order to protect his staff from a creepy perv, not because he was using a dSLR or for whatever BS reason Thomas Hawk claims.

If true, then Blint’s actions would be entirely appropriate. Whichever poor soul handles communications for SFMOMA should be able to provide needed clarification tomorrow morning.

Simon Blint, Director of Visitor Relations at the SF MOMA, Yeah You Asshole, Photography is Not a Crime [Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection]
(Photo: Thomas Hawk)