2017 Conference Abstracts

Note: This programme is provisional and the association reserves the right to make reasonable alterations and substitutions without prior notice. E&OE.

Richard Ash & Damon Cleary: Representing Contemporary Conflict

Focusing on our involvement in IWM’s War Story project, initially based in the UK, but culminating in three trips (2012-14) to Afghanistan embedded with the British Armed Forces. The team were the first members of staff to go to an active war zone since the First World War. We travelled to various locations in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces and also further North in the capital Kabul.

The trips fed into three exhibitions put on at IWM London and the images and footage have entered into the museums permanent archives to help represent that particular conflict from a slightly different, more neutral viewpoint.

In presenting this we hope to profile that museum photography and film is still being produced as an asset to our exhibitions and to represent our stories.

James O. Davies: The Post-War Private House, a photographic narrative

Following the publication in 2015 of four books which feature my work on post-war private houses I would like to give an illustrated talk on this most hidden area of our architectural environment. Having been granted rare access to the houses of the best and most innovative architects working since the war, this talk will look at that development what credibly might be claimed the most active and original in terms of house design.

From the humble prefab to the modernist masterpieces of Denys Lasdun, Sir Basil Spence and latterly, Sir Richard Rogers and Norman Foster this talk will shed light on some of the most striking and ambitious gems in England by a generation of architects developing both American and European modernist ideas.

Susan Pettigrew & Scott Renton: A Lengthy Challenge, photographing an Indian manuscript scroll

In April this year the Digital Imaging Unit at the University of Edinburgh set out to digitise its beautiful manuscript scroll of the Mahabharata, a 1795 copy of one of the longest poems ever written. At only 13.5 cm wide, but a staggering 72m long, the scroll has 78 miniatures, is elaborately decorated in gold and has dense, tiny text. Housed in a wooden case and wound around rollers by a key on the side, this presents many challenges for both the photography and the online delivery. With the Mahabharata set to go on display for the Edinburgh Festival ‘Highlands to Hindustan’ exhibition which opened in July, there was only a narrow window of opportunity for the first stages of the project: conservation and photography. This presentation discusses the methodology for the photography and processing to create a digital surrogate that maintains the look of the scroll, and how IIIF is enabling the online delivery of this unusual original.

Kira Zumkley: Bridging the Gap, A client-focused approach to collections photography

How does a photography studio cater to the needs of clients ranging from researchers and academics on the one side of the spectrum, to designers and marketing teams on the other side whilst working within the budget and time constraints set by their institutions? And more importantly, how do you achieve this without sacrificing either image or data standards?

This is a challenge my team and I face on a daily basis and this paper/presentation is designed to give other cultural heritage photographers an idea of how we manage to bridge the gap and deliver high quality photographs that can be used by both researchers and designers alike.

My first step was to develop a better understanding of who our clients are, what they look for in an image and how they end up using our photographs. This process not only allowed me to create a more integrated approach to how we photograph our collection, it also helped to improve interdepartmental relationships and encouraged an atmosphere of collaboration.

The next step saw me proactively reaching out to our clients giving personal presentations of our improved service catalogue thus providing the chance to actively engage with our new approach and manage expectations on both sides.

Where possible we do endeavour to deliver photographs specifically tailored to the client’s brief. However more often than not this is not an available option due to lack of funding or other constraints. Knowing how to create an image of a collection item, that is of the highest professional standard, can be produced within the given budget and deadlines and is also of use to all our clients is what makes us experts in our fields.

We have the expertise to know what we can compromise on, where we need to manage expectations and most importantly how we can create stunning photographs that showcase our collections and inspire the public. Through this we can raise our profile within our own institutions and beyond and help create an appreciation for the work cultural heritage imaging specialists do across the UK and beyond.

Linda Marchant & Hugh Hamilton: Bridges and Pipelines: Working with Students and Industry

As around 60% of creative industries workers are graduates, and 16.1% of all jobs in the UK are in DCMS sectors (5.2 million jobs) it would seem key that universities who wish to provide a talent pipeline for the Creative Industries work closely with industry partners.

Therefore in the School of Art and Design at Nottingham Trent University, we strive to build positive relationships with industry, cultural organisations and companies to benefit both the organisations and students who work within them, and we would like to share some of these ideas through this paper.

Starting out with some context and external drivers for Universities, we will move on to outline some examples of the types of projects we have worked on with our imaging professional industry partners. Traditionally, these partnerships have centred on research, but there are many more ways to connect. More practical and creative aspects of working together such as internships and live projects, the pipelines, are becoming more prominent and pertinent within our sector.

We intend for our partners establish a fruitful relationship with our students and gain real benefit from working with them and sharing from their expertise. For us, we are keen to build and expand our partnership network, ensuring that our students’ skills are current and appropriate for their entry into the world of work.

We invite you to consider ways we can bridge the journey from study to work, together.

David John Lake: How can photography capture and promote the cultural heritage, memory, sounds and spirit of ancient reconstructed musical instruments?

This presentation introduces new photographic work produced in partnership with The European Music Archaeology Project. The intention of the project was to highlight Europe’s ancient cultural roots through a range of musical, scientific and “sensorial” research projects. In 2016 EMAP revealed the results of its research for the first time with a musical concert in Glasgow, followed by a European-wide tour and exhibition, ARCHÆOMUSICA, touring Europe between June 2016 and May 2018.

My role within this European funded cultural project was to produce a series of photographic inquiries that explored and went beyond the traditional observational and illustrative uses of photographic practices – with a brief that challenged photography as an archaic practice: to explore new cultural and technological shifts within current photographic research methodologies, processes and Image production workflows. In order to capture, reproduce and communicate visually the sound, spirit and memory of the ancient musical instruments photographed. In particular this presentation will focus on research methods of inquiry employed to critically examine and explore the synaesthetic ability of photographic light to capture and communicate the sound, aura and memory embedded within a Tintignac Carnyx (a reconstructed 2000 years old Bronze Age Celtic trumpet.) Exploring the ethereal quality of digital light paining techniques and the composite image in constructing a cultural narrative.

Colin Maitland: The Phound Photograph—an entertainment

This is a slide-show of a collection of largely amateur, and almost exclusively anonymous photographic images, drawn from as long a period of photographic history as possible, from tintype to MyFabo. There is also a small detective story in it.

All the images were bought, found or given to me. In all cases I know no more about their origins than what internal evidence (if there is any) provides. I acquired them for two reasons. The first is that they are pictorially or historically interesting or unusual—I particularly like interiors and they are rarer—or poignant. The second reason is that they may represent a photographic process, Polaroid or albumen print, for example. Happily, quite often these two qualities are combined.

I hope delegates will enjoy the pictures, first of all and, secondly, learn from them some history, technical, social and aesthetic.

Strephon Duckering: Beauty in the Mud, recent archaeological images

In this paper I present some images of finds taken in the studio and the sites where they’re found. When photographing objects I try to preserve the aesthetic value of the objects. I’m often reminded of drawing classes in the process; in both processes objects are described as accurately as possible by minute observations of details and characteristics and both transpose three dimensional objects onto a two dimensional plane. It has been suggested that in the process I’m considering the photograph itself as a piece of art and that must result from my art school training.

One thing that separates the photography I do from many other kinds is that the objects I photograph are often degraded, fragmentary and sometimes soiled. They’re also usually remnants of humble of objects and I think it takes something of an artist’s eye to see the beauty in them. An effect of this is to make me quite dependent on our finds specialists who are very good at helping me to visualise how things might best be represented. Very occasionally I’m able to spot something they’ve missed and I will expand some anecdotes about these relationships. British archaeology is more commonly mud than structure and things survive because they’ve been buried either intentionally or accidentally by slow occupational accumulations above. Within these layers and intrusions are seen subtle changes in colour and soil structure that in themselves can be very beautiful.

Steve Cole: I wrote a book—you could too

Many years a photographer but not an author I was somewhat nervous when I was asked by my employer to write a book. I knew my job but not having written a book before, I had little idea about how to do it. This presentation will describe my own personal approach as worked out what to say and how to say it. Also how to illustrate what was to be said. I hope that by the end you will feel inspired to share your skills in this way.

Liz Dewar: The Skeletons in the Closet at the Royal Academy

The Royal Academy of Arts is currently undertaking a significant building project to connect its three distinct buildings in Mayfair. When the new buildings open in 2018, the RA’s unique collection of artworks, as well as books and archival material, will be available free to the public for the first time in our 250 year history. In order to support these new displays, the RA is working on a collection digitisation and online access project which will coincide with the grand re-opening of the buildings.

These two projects came together when the collections management team were tasked with moving fragile items out of the buildings before the demolition work could commence, including a collection of human skeletons. These skeletons had been acquired for use in the RA Schools, as reference material for students studying anatomy. The study of anatomy and strict drawing exercises declined in the 20th century and the skeletons became more of a curiosity than a tool. They remained locked in their glass cabinet in the corridor until the careful task of packing them into crates began.

Because of the unique storage situation of the skeletons, they had never been photographed before. Through a quick and collaborative project, the collections team coordinated conservators and a photographer within the Schools studio space before the human remains were packed into customised crates for long term storage. I propose to give a presentation on this project, where I can show the challenging spaces we worked in and the resulting high-quality images. In addition, an image of the entire skeleton cabinet in its original space was created and employed some advanced Photoshop techniques which can be presented.

Sarah Duncan: Photographing Human Remains

As a photographer at the Science Museum I work with a vast array of objects from within the collection. In early January 2017, a Loan Out request for photographs of human specimens in the form of tattooed skin arrived in my inbox.

Loans such as these are rare for 3 main reasons:

1. Restricted access to the collection.
2. Museums must have a licence for the display of human remains.
3. Questions are often raised about ethics surrounding the display of human remains.

The nature of the tattoos, the preservation techniques employed 120 years ago, and their classification as a bio-hazard meant that it was going to be no ordinary afternoon in the studio. The tattoos are part of the Wellcome Collection and are the largest collection of human skins in the world, numbering over 300 individual tattoo fragments. All date from around 1900.

In my presentation I will talk about my working method, techniques and equipment, and how I developed these techniques eventually digitising the all of the tattoos.

I intend to show a selection of this tattoo photography as part of my presentation. I will point out from the start of the presentation that it is going to contain images of human remains in the form of human skin. Any person not wishing to view the presentation is requested to leave the room prior to the start of my talk.