Sunday, 27 July 2014

Rich photo opportunities in London's museums and galleries

Tate Arches
Tate Arches - Tate Britain

We are very fortunate in this country that many of the best museums and galleries in London do not charge an entry fee, although they do usually request a donation. Not only do they contain some wonderful exhibits, the buildings themselves offer some great photographic opportunities. In fact I enjoy visiting and exploring these institutions for this very reason. Some time ago I went to the Natural History Museum to see the Genesis Exhibition by Sebastiao Salgado and I wrote about the photos taken here.

More recently I have visited Tate Britain, the British Museum and the Saatchi Gallery to see what material there might be for some photography. Each building is very different, but all three had a number of architectural features which inspired me to take some images.

All of these visitor attractions allow photographs to be taken, although the use of a tripod would I think be prohibited, so all my shots were handheld.

Tate Britain

The Manton Staircase, Tate Britain
The Manton Staircase

Light on the stairs
Light on the Stairs

Spiral staircase
Spiral staircase

The Corridor
The Corridor

The British Museum

British Museum
Great Court - a contrast of old and new


Leading somewhere
Leading somewhere?

Ionic Column, British Museum
Ionic column

The Saatchi Gallery

Inside outside
Inside - Outside

Regarding the building itself, I found less to photograph here, but I was able to capture a few interesting people shots.

Just looking
Just Looking

Art movement
Art movement

Girl in the Gallery
Girl in the gallery

Rich pickings as far as I am concerned and definitely worth a return visit at some point in the future.   It also makes me wonder what opportunities might be in store at many other museums and galleries across the capital city of London.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

My first commission - The finished result

Vail Williams Commission - for publicity frame

This is the last entry describing my first ever photographic commission. It would have been posted much sooner, as I wanted to include some images of the framed photographs in their final resting place i.e. - hanging on the walls in the offices of Vail Williams, but lack of time and other commitments have prevented me from making a trip to North Harbour. Another day perhaps and an excuse for another blog entry. For the time being I have put together this composite of all ten photographs.

The Stern
The Stern

The last stage in the process of this commission was not without its challenges. As far as I was concerned every one of the A2 size prints had to be printed perfectly. No blemishes, no banding, just perfect results. My Epson 3880 performed extremely well but on a few occasions the print quality was not to my satisfaction and when this happened, in the bin it went, and another one was printed.

Printing the images with an Epson 3880

Mounting each image proved fairly straightforward. I had recently bought a new mount cutter by Longridge which would cope more easily with the size of board and opening I would be cutting. I had already calculated the size of the finished print so that I could cut each mount board identically to fit the black frames which I had purchased beforehand. Using archival 'acid free' tape I made 'T' hinges to fix the print to the mount board. I then used 'acid free' double sided tape to fix backing board to the mount board to keep the print flat and ensure a good fit inside the frame.

The Longridge mount cutter made easy work of this stage in the process

Perhaps the hardest task was placing the mounted photograph inside the frame. This task should be the easiest of all, but there were countless times when dust or some other tiny fragment would get trapped between the clear perspex and the board or the photograph itself. I simply can't ignore it when this happens so I remove the print, clean the perspex and start again. I got there eventually but it can be most frustrating!

Commission completed - The stack of ten A2 photographs

My work finished I invited Ian Froome round to check that he was happy with the results. He was, so out came the bubble wrap and each of the ten framed photographs was packaged and stacked carefully in his car.

Inside Lakeside
Inside Lakeside

A few days later Ian contacted me to let me know that the 'North Harbour handyman' had hung each picture and the commission was well and truly completed. I received payment for my expenses and as agreed at the outset Vail Williams made a generous donation towards The St Peter Project.

Spinnaker Tower across the harbour
Spinnaker Tower

I thoroughly enjoyed my first commission, from agreeing the brief, to taking the images, making up a short list, processing them and finally making them ready for display. It did take a lot of time but I learnt a great deal in the process, and I would happily take on another commission given the opportunity.

The first entry - Agreeing the brief can be found here.

The second entry - Taking the photographs can be found here.

The third entry - Processing and selection can be found here.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

My first commission - Processing and selection

This is the third entry in my series charting the progress and experiences of undertaking my first photographic commission.

In the previous entry I wrote about the photo shoot and the locations I visited. Back home, I swiftly downloaded all the shots into Lightroom and backed them up. I wanted to make sure nothing was lost before deleting the files from the SD Cards. In total I had taken 417 exposures and I needed to get this number down to about 30 or so images from which Vail Williams would hopefully choose about 8 for framing and display in their offices at Lakeside.

Old and New Portsmouth
Old and New Portsmouth

As I had never undertaken a commission before, trying to decide which images to process and then include in the shortlist, was always going to be a problem. It's easy of course to remove those which are technically flawed, of which there were a number, although not that many. This was not so much down to me but the technical functionality of the Olympus EM1.

Lakeside, North harbour.
Lakeside, North Harbour

Other shots simply didn't work whether for compositional reasons, subject matter, wrong angle of view and so on. Others in my view really had merit and were worthy in my opinion of being included in the final selection to put forward. Inevitably I guess I was drawn to images that I liked but which also fulfilled the brief set by the client. However I was very conscious of the fact that for the first time I was creating a set of photographs not for me but for someone else; in fact a group of people who might have very different ideas as to what they would want and actually pay for!

Processing the images 

Over a period of a couple of weeks, I made my selection and processed all the images in a consistent fashion ready to show Ian Froome, who would then share them with other members of his team. I took a lot of care during the processing to make sure there were no blemishes or sensor spots. I wanted to ensure that all the images were print ready. Given that they were going to be printed on A2 paper, any marks or imperfections would be magnified and more likely to be noticed.

Sunsail 4022
Sunsail 4022

For the presentation I decided to prepare them in three different ways. Firstly I produced a MP4 slideshow which is relatively easy to do in Lightroom. I put them in an order which I considered appropriate and transferred the slideshow onto a disk which I could give to Ian. Using small file sizes I also copied the individual images on to the disk as well, so they actually had thumbnails of each one if they needed to easily share these around the office. Lastly I printed a contact sheet onto the photographic paper I would be using for the finished prints, namely Ilford Galerie Gold Mono Silk. This paper in my opinion produces some great black and white results although unfortunately the factory in Switzerland producing the paper, Ilford Imaging, went into liquidation at the end of 2013 so the paper is no longer available. Fortunately I had a good stock of A2 size paper to complete the commission.

Gosport tower
Gosport Tower
I invited Ian round to my home to see the images and take away the disk and the contact sheet. He seemed suitably impressed but I would have to wait for his confirmation that he and his team liked the photographs sufficiently to want to hang them in their offices. I took nothing for granted, as I did not want to assume they would want any of the 26 photographs in the selection I had provided.

A week or so later and great news. Ian contacted me and they had chosen not just 8 photographs but 10 images. I was delighted but it soon dawned on me that I now had to print, mount and frame all these photographs. This will be the subject of my next and final entry on this topic.

The first entry in this short series can be found here, and the second entry here.