The David C. Driskell Center’s Digitization project photography is in full swing. The Driskell Center is continuing to photograph its art collection. For the last few photography sessions, I have been assisting in handling the art pieces and learning all I can from Greg Staley, a professional art photographer hired for this project, about the photography process.
There is an old saying in photography, that it is just “point and shoot.” This couldn’t be further from the actual process. Our photography spaces have included our prep room as well as the gallery, both of which were repurposed into a makeshift photography studio with lights, backdrops, and any props to hold up the piece. There are certainly some more tricky pieces to shoot. A piece from our latest exhibit, The Last Ten Years: In Focus, Serious Play by Tarrence Corbin was difficult to shoot because of the sheer size of the piece. In its frame, the piece is about six and half by seven feet. It took twice as many lights as usual to get even lighting.
For the most part two-dimensional pieces are fairly easy to photograph once lighting is set up. Three-dimensional pieces are a little trickier to photograph. Because they produce shadows, the lighting has to be set up not just to illuminate the piece but also so there is minimal shadows in the final image. With 3 dimensional pieces, multiple angles of the piece have to be photographed, as well. Some pieces are more visually complex than others, like Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller’s Peace Halting the Ruthlessness of War. The piece features a horse and rider over a mass of humans who all appear to be in despair. The rider of the horse holds a staff that has a face in despair on it. The complexity of the piece makes it interesting to look at and try to analyze. It also meant that extra time was spent deciding what sides and angles should be photographed to make sure the entirety of the object was recorded.
A sculpture Boy on a Stump by Augusta Savage was another challenging piece. The artwork is a solid bronze sculpture standing almost three feet high, and as such is extremely heavy. Based off of rough calculations, it could weigh about 1600 lbs. It was too heavy to move with just one or two people, and required three people to work together to load the sculpture onto a standing dolly to move it. It then took two people to move the dolly; one to push the sculpture and another to hold it steady and guide the dolly. The sculpture ultimately had to be photographed in the art storage vault standing on the floor. White boards were laid out so the color under the statue was neutral, and to protect the artwork. The piece was also photographed from three different angles, and had to be turned to shoot each one. It took almost an hour and half to shoot the one piece.
As we move along with the project, I am learning more about the photography process, especially since we recently purchased a high-quality camera for the Driskell Center. Not only are the sessions with Greg allowing us to get high resolution images of the current collection, but we are using them as a training ground to creating a manual to detail the technical aspects of photographing artwork so that we can continue the process as we receive new pieces in the future. All the high-res images from the digitization project are available from the Driskell Center upon request.
Post written by Tamara Schlossenberg, a graduate assistant working on the ILMS grant project.