I made another visit to the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments for their revamped keyboard instrument exhibition. Part of working on location is expecting one thing and working out how to do another on site.
The plan was to photograph the new exhibit for publication and cover several keyboard wells and other instrument details. Surprise! Instead, more accurately, as well, we jumped into full instruments. Their full keyboard collection had been largely photographed years ago, but there were 6 instruments that had not.
So we squeezed the instruments onto the paper I had and with a little post magic I got the 6 instruments without completely dismantling the exhibit. It helped that several instruments were on rolling platforms, but the ideal set up for this would definitely have been to evacuate one end of the entire hall to run large sweeps of paper up the wall for a huge seamless backdrop. We got this done with one 109″ wide roll on a 6′ deep platform!
I photographed a collection of very interesting photographs as part of an incoming institutional gift. The work came with the luxury of an actual borrowed studio space, not something I get usually on location. One of several works by one artist was this nearly black 50 by 60 inch print. The print had amazing saturation with just the most subtle light shining on an ocean in the middle, and a moon arc above.
How to photograph a large weaving in a small space.
Another reason, variation, and use of a tilt table (of sorts) to make possible photographing in tight quarters. This time for a heavy 10ft+ weaving that is meant to be displayed hanging vertically. The object had recently been cleaned and was still being stored rolled. Additionally there were no walls tall enough to hang the weaving or space high enough for me to rig it temporarily.
Working 99% of the time on location I need to be able to accommodate many types of objects with the space allowed. That means planning ahead and staying flexible on site. The most difficult of course is a new residential location with only descriptions and measurements from a collector (which I often do without the luxury of a preliminary visit). Luckily I had been to this location a year ago and knew the space. As well we had spent the previous day photographing a group of ceramic works from the same artist.
I made this large tilt table and tested it before arriving to photograph. Aside from just making the table, pre-departure testing included setting up a mock photography scenario. This meant testing for table tilt (angle), tripod height, and distance back, everything would need to fit the room width, depth and height. Room width was easy, but I couldn’t get further back or make the ceiling higher on site.
The table was made from two shortened sheets of 3/4″ plywood and a 2×4 to join them. The plywood was covered in grey paper on site and then a double thick (and a little tacky) rubber carpet mat was stapled to the surface. The goal was to make a table strong enough to support the object safely, stay flat under weight, and of course be as compact as possible to transport. With the addition of two geared tripods the table ended up as simple and compact as one could hope. The only unknown was if the weaving would stay put once raised up to 45deg (my optimal photographing angle for the space). The rubber mat did it’s job perfectly, nary a slip, and the table supported everything perfectly. Happy me and happy client.
(previous tilt table use with poster size art)
Whitney Museum of American Art: Richard Artschwager
I had the interesting opportunity to photograph some archival documents, posters, paintings, etc at the residence of artist Richard Artschwager for an upcoming Whitney retrospective. Nothing too different in the photography, though I tested out a nice new portable tilt photo table (new meaning: my construction). Barring hauling a studio column this makes poster size flat works manageable on location with just a tripod. Also, though ceilings were not a problem here, the tilt table allows a shorter ceiling height. Anyway, it was a privilege to photograph the work and meet such an art luminary (lunch was great!). I can’t post any inside tour pics, but the converted church residence was a trip.
Walker Evans Polaroids: Summertime Fun
Alright, here it is, summer project 2011. Soooo much fun, well a little work.
I had the privilege of photographing 716 Walker Evans Polaroids over the course of two weeks. Kind of a hired gun situation (pardon the metaphor, remember I don’t shoot things!), but I wasn’t going to pass this up. Thanks to John ffrench, Josh Chuang, and the helpful PPD staff for having me, and helping me get through this many objects in only two weeks!
Cozy summer cave:
Some closer views of the photography stand below here. Lights were cross polarized and Polaroids were held down under glass.
The Trick, ‘er Method
The trick (or more professionally sounding, the studied method) for this type of high volume / high quality project is a consistent, smooth workflow. Objects are batched out in chunks that make sense for both equipment and human attention. I’m pretty good at estimating how long something will take me in the early project planning phase (i.e. estimate of cost for client), but there is always a slightly panicky “rubber meets the road” period in the first day or two. I plan quite a bit and do test shooting on prop objects if needed. The goal of this project was high quality human inspected color correction (not what is often referred to as “rapid imaging”) for each object. The objects have been fading and changing over time and photographing them now as faithfully as possible at least creates a record for this time that will last.