According to Freemuse sources, in February 2019, the Ministry of Culture in Greece forced Belgian photographer Patrick De Smet to delete all photographs that he had taken in archaeological sites and museums because his equipment was deemed professional and all the photographed sites required a paid fee.
De Smet’s artwork was considered to violate Article 1 and 2 of the determination of fees for photography, which deals with the use of images taken with non-professional and professional equipment. Photographs taken with non-professional equipment and for non-commercial use are free of charge, while the ones taken with professional equipment require adequate fees. Example of a fee includes 1000 euros for “photography with a professional camera for commercial and advertising purposes with persons’ interference, in Archaeological Sites, Monuments and Museums.”
The photographer’s case is currently under the investigation in the second stage in the court of Nafplio. The judge will decide whether De Smet violated the law.
“It is clear that this law issued many decennia ago, was made to prohibit ‘commercial’ photography, i.e. photography with the purpose of commercially selling large numbers of copies of the photos […] using them for touristic publications, etc.,” Patrick De Smet told Freemuse. “However, the Ministry of Culture ‘interprets’ the law and tries to also apply it to ‘fine art photography’. It is obvious that fine art photographers also sell their photos, but not in a commercial way, as they are considered by law as artists and not as photographers selling commercial photos or services.”
The artist also points out that the authorities cannot assess and decide what type of equipment is professional and which is not. “The difference is non-existing as there are no lists of “professional cameras” which this law could possibly refer to,” De Smet said.
De Smet wrote the defence in which he stated and explained that he is an artistic photographer and not a “commercial” one.
“As this law is now, I and my colleagues in fine art photography are easy victims as it all depends on subjective interpretations of ‘professional photography = photography using professional cameras’,” the artist said.
The digitalisation of the photography in the age of the Internet brought new challenges to the profession, especially with the aspect of nudity in the photographs.
De Smet notices that “so many people all over the world still equal nudity with something that is taboo, that necessarily relates to sexual activities or that expresses something ‘base’, vulgar, or even perverted.”
Freemuse report on Privatising Censorship, Digitising Violence: Shrinking Space of Women’s Rights to Create in the Digital Age highlights that social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram restrict the display of nudity in their guidelines.
“While sharing nude images to raise awareness about health issues, as a form of protest and photographed nudity in paintings and sculptures is allowed, photographic representations of the nude body is banned,” the report states.
Patrick De Smet is a photographer who, via his artwork, visualises emotions effects that specific natural environments, such as Ancient Greek works of art, have on him. He believes that the representation of immaterial treasure can reconnect us to the places and atmosphere of ancient societies.
You can view Patrick De Smet’s work here.