Permission for photography inside Palace draws flak

The recent decision of the Mysuru Palace Board to allow photography ‘without flash’, at all places of the Palace wherever tourists are allowed, is drawing flak from conservationists and also tourist guides.

According to the Deputy Director of the Mysuru Palace Board, “On June 19, 2003, the chief secretary, who is the chairperson of the Palace Board, chaired a meeting and decided to allow photography by tourists without the use of flash for a nominal fee of Rs 20. Further, in a meeting on March 1, 2018, the Palace Board decided to allow tourists to take photographs with either their mobile phones or cameras without flash.”

The Palace Board is right in adding the clause ‘without flash’ to the permission. According to a study published by the National Gallery Publications Limited in 1995, in the National Gallery Technical Bulletin Volume 16, photography using electronic flash is a threat to paintings of all sorts.

The study ‘Photographic Flash: Threat or Nuisance?’ by David Saunders states: “Most museums and galleries, including the National Gallery, do not permit visitors to take photographs using electronic flash. It is assumed that this prohibition is to protect the paintings from the damaging effects of repeated exposure to photographic flash, since light and ultra-violet radiation are known to damage pigments and to discolour media, varnishes and other organic materials in works of art. Damage by photolytic processes occurs when a photon of light is absorbed by a molecule.”

“Absorption of this energy raises a molecule from its ground state to an excited state. A small proportion of the excited molecules undergo an irreversible change, leading to degradation of the original material. It is also possible that a molecule in the excited state may be further excited by the absorption of an additional photon, which may initiate a different degradation process. If the rate at which photons arrive is high and the lifetime of the excited state is sufficiently long, molecules will be excited more quickly than they return to the ground state. Under these circumstances, the larger concentration of molecules in the first excited state makes the absorption of a second photon by these reactive intermediates more likely, increasing the possibility of degradation by this pathway. It is these so-called sequential two-photon (or biphotonic) processes, which may be initiated when a material is exposed to high-intensity light, even of short duration,” the study states. A tourist guide, said, the clause ‘without flash’ is fine, but who will monitor whether the clause is followed or not.

“Compared to the footfall of tourists, around 35 lakh per annum, the staff manning the monument is miniscule. On an average, 10,000 tourists visit the Palace. But, on days during extended weekends, over 30,000 people have visited the Palace on a single day,” he points out. “The officials have taken into consideration only the flash lights used by professional photographers. But, given the penetration of smartphones and also ‘aim and shoot’ (pocket) cameras, almost everybody carry a camera ‘with flash’ while entering the Palace. Is there a mechanism to switch off the flash light of all pocket cameras and smartphones?” he asked.

Shalva Pille Iyengar, assistant professor in Ancient History and Archeology said, photographing any monument is normal. “But, any type of painting — mounted, mural or on the ceiling — should not be photographed, in view of conserving them for the future generations. When thousands of tourists visit, there is no guarantee that they would not use flash. So photography inside the Palace should not be allowed,” he said.

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Permission for photography inside Palace draws flak

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