At CHS we frequently exercise our internal photography muscles; however, there are certain items and certain projects that sometimes require a professional photographer. Yesterday David Stansbury spent the day photographing a variety of our landscapes for the Artist and the Connecticut Landscape project that will result in a number of Connecticut landscapes being added to the Connecticut History Online database. The landscapes ranged from houses and industrial scenes, to rivers and forests.
For projects like this, we often hire David because of his expertise, technical knowledge, and equipment. David has been a professional photographer for over 30 years and his innate ability to understand each item’s special lighting, set-up, and photography needs makes everything go faster and smoother.
Yesterday we had David photographing framed and unframed artworks, so the set-up primarily consisted of our large easel. The easel can be adjusted upright to support larger, framed artworks, or angled and combined with a stiff mat board to support unframed works on paper.
It was fun to see the variety of artwork in the collection and how the painting styles of landscapes changed over the years. It is also always educational to watch a professional at work. Although Diane and I, plus some of our volunteers, strive to take the best object photographs we are able, it is nice to have someone with 30 plus years of experience show us how it’s really done!
In total, we photographed a little over 50 items yesterday. Each item had to be located in storage, brought from the garden-level paintings storage to the 3rd floor area we had set-up for the day’s photography shoot, photographed, tracked on the photography sheet, taken back downstairs, and re-hung. While a number of the artworks were small and fairly light, we were often able to have one person carry the piece while another person manned the elevator and doors. Many of the larger framed paintings, however, required two people to carry and one on door duty…making the entire process a long one.
This painting of a ship proved to be one of the most difficult pieces of the day. Not only was it large and quite heavy, but it was covered with a pane of glass. The glass causes problems when doing photography and usually results in needing to cover up everything that could bounce light back and create a glare…meaning the camera tripod was covered in black fabric, the power lights on our computers were covered with sticky notes, and every light on the 3rd floor that was not necessary was turned off. The weight of the piece made Diane and I just nervous enough that we posted our collections volunteer, Laura, to stand next to the picture so if there was any problem with the easel due to the weight of the glassed and framed painting, someone would be there to catch it (don’t worry, Diane and I weren’t far out of the shot either!).
Four, and at times five, of us spent the entire workday yesterday doing photography, and now David will spend many hours adjusting the photographs and preparing them to send to us. Once the files make it to CHS, Diane will attach the images to TMS and Nancy, our Graphics Curator, will finish the cataloguing. Only after all of those steps are the records ready to be uploaded to Connecticut History Online and accessed by anyone in the world. So, next time you hop online looking for an item from our collection, remember all the hours of work, and steps to the process that must first go in to every record.
I hope you’ve enjoyed yet another glance behind the scenes!