Rosie and Karen, two of our digitisation assistants, write:

The Digital Content team were asked to undertake a photography project to create a visual record of the Art Collection and Special Collections sculptures across campus.  This was to ensure the records were up to date in our Collections Management System Emu, but also to contribute to Art UK, a charity website showcasing public art collections from over 3,200 British institutions. Art UK’s mission is to make art available to everyone for enjoyment, learning and research.

Many of the challenges we experienced were to do with the sculptures’ location. For example, one of the items we had to photograph was a marble frieze in the Brotherton Library entrance. Situated immediately opposite the turnstiles we had to come up with a plan to photograph it without blocking access routes for staff and students. We decided to take the shot from behind the reception desk using a tripod to elevate the camera, thus eliminating the turnstiles from the final image.

Portrait medallion of Lord Brotherton with white marble plaque commemorating his gift to the Library, William Reid Dick, 1935. Image credit Leeds University Library.

An Art Store houses some of the University’s Art Collection and was another location which posed challenges. It is a compact space with uneven ambient light, and a busy working area for gallery staff so we had to come up with creative solutions. As we were not bringing lights with us we had to choose the best lit spot we could and create our own studio backdrop.  Utilizing the colour-checker passport we can capture and maintain colour control and neutralise the effects of artificial light on the finished image.

One of the sculptures we photographed was a four-piece artwork created by Simon Fujiwara, who is also responsible for “A Spire” situated outside the Laidlaw Library. It was a collective effort between us and the gallery team to retrieve the pieces as they were very heavy and fragile and stored in boxes in the Art Store. A lot of the sculptures we’d photographed prior to this were either on display in the library or on campus so this was the first one we’d had to physically move to capture. It also gave us the opportunity to see the Mobile Extendable Workable Platform in action!

Clockwise from left, Karen and Marco in the makeshift studio; alabaster bust mounted on tree trunk; retrieving one of Simon Fujiwara’s Four Test Sample Panels for the Sculpture ‘A Spire’; one of the test panels. Image credit Leeds University Library.

This was an exciting project and a slight departure from the team’s usual work, allowing us to develop our photography skills and experience of photographing items outside the studio setting.  Keep your eyes on the Art UK website to see the finished results.

Sir Walter Scott after a bust by Frances Legatt Chantrey, 1820, looking at “Portrait of Sir Walter Scott” James Nasmyth, oil on panel. Brotherton Collection.  Image credit Leeds University Library.