How I Got Kicked Out of The Cloisters

Several weeks ago Jon, an old co-worker, proposed to his girlfriend Trish and asked me to photograph the occasion at The Cloisters Museum. As you can tell from my gallery, people photography is not something I generally do, but I thought the nice spaces inside would translate into beautiful photos. For those unfamiliar with The Cloisters Museum, it is an annex of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, housing part of their medieval art collection. The building itself incorporates several different cloisters shipped over from Europe. The Met has a website detailing The Cloisters' history.

Jon did his research well, including some on location scouting, and was able to provide us with a floor plan and images of the Saint-Guilhem Cloister, where he wanted to propose. Additionally, Jon set up a scheduled "girls day" for Trish, which let him know when she would arrive.  Since I would be doing a type of photography I don't practice often, I asked my good friend Diego to join us. Diego has more experience photographing people, since he shoots a lot of portraits and bands.

I showed up at the museum first and started taking some test shots inside the Saint-Guilhem Cloister to understand the lighting. This is by far the nicest space inside the museum, which makes it popular with other guests. This in turn makes it popular with security. So much for Jon and Trish having a private moment.

Diego and Jon arrived, along with parents from both families. As we were entering, the security staff asked Diego and I what we were photographing. Me and my big mouth mentioned we were shooting a proposal and they immediately told us staged photography was prohibited (sorry Jon). But they did let us enter. Shooting a proposal in the Saint-Guilhem Cloister would be impossible because of the constant security presence.

Jon and the parents started looking for other, more private, locations and eventually found one. It was outdoors, so the lighting was much brighter than the medieval interiors, but it was also cold. Hence the privacy. Diego and I told Jon where to stand so we could see him while remaining hidden.  And we waited. The doors to the courtyard opened and we got ready, expecting Trish, but it was an little old asian lady. She was quite confused at the two photographers hiding in niches and behind columns.

After the asian lady left, the doors opened again, Trish came out and the proposal went as expected. I wasn't able to get any good shots of Jon on his knee due to the shooting angles, but I was able to get a great moment afterwards.

Everyone went back inside to warm up and we attempted taking a few photographs inside, which was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Security came up and told us we had been warned about staged photography and would now have to leave.

I should be clear that I don't blame security or harbor any ill will. They were just doing their job enforcing an existing policy and were always very polite to us. The policy against staged photography makes sense to protect the museum experience for other guests.

In the end I'm glad everything worked out, to some degree. Jon and Trish get some nice photos and now have an interesting story to tell in the future.