Photographers covering princess’s visit to museum corralled; public wanders freely
WASHINGTON, D.C. — During a visit to the National Gallery of Art in late December by Princess Diana, news photographers were kept behind a barricade while the public, some with cameras, strolled through the gallery with the princess.
When photographers arrived at the National Gallery, they were instructed by museum officials to stay in a cordoned-off area during the visit, said Greg Mathieson, a photographer with MAI Photo who covered the event. However, during the visit, tourists and other members of the public were allowed to walk through the museum with the princess, apparently without restrictions, Mathieson said. Mathieson said he saw numerous tourists taking pictures of the princess.
“We stressed that we should have the right to go where the public goes,” Mathieson said. “They ignored us. They would only respond to our questions with ‘Get behind the ropes,'” he said.
Mathieson said he put his camera in his car and tried to re-enter the museum “as a tourist” so he could find out which exhibits the princess saw, but security officials recognized him and ordered him back to the press area.
A museum spokesperson, Deborah Ziska, said the State Department’s Diplomatic Security unit made the arrangements for the visit and referred questions about it to the State Department.
Frank Matthews, press officer for the Diplomatic Security unit, said that the practice during visits such as the princess’s is to put photographers in one area for “control.” He acknowledged, however, that “the fact that other people were wandering around is a problem. We can only do so much. That’s just the way we operate.”
Matthews said that he was certain the security officers were keeping a close watch on the members of the public.
Matthews also said that if tourists were taking pictures, “that was against the museum’s policy.”
Mathieson said he has approached the National Press Photographers Association and the White House News Photographers Association about sending a protest letter to the director of the museum.