As we start to sift through our collections records it can sometimes become difficult to identify the records that you’re looking at; all the numbers blur together and one china pattern begins to look like another. At times like this it’s important to take a little break and try something different.
A couple of weeks back this is exactly what happened to me and our collections volunteer Cat Fuller. We took a couple of hours out to photograph of some of the pieces that have already been selected for inclusion in the project. The goal wasn’t to produce finished images, it was to experiment and see what we could do with our images that was different or better than what we’d done before.
Better is a very subjective term but I am keen to show objects in a new light by showing detail that people might not otherwise have noticed. Quite often this means moving away from what people think of as a traditional catalogue image, one that is evenly lit with minimal highlights or shadow. Luckily Cat and I have a similar approach so we looked at some objects and tried to find ways of making them more beautiful and noticeable.
The image above is the centre section of a photo that one of us took of one of our miniature teapots. Classified as toys they are every bit as impressive as their full-size counterparts. Using a single light has shown the relief and intricate detail of the elephant’s head that forms the spout, it also creates a highlight that draws the eye to the golden lustre.
Of course, these are experiments and we will be looking to improve the work that we do in this area. In the meantime one of the project partners for Europeana Food and Drink, The Royal Museum for Central Africa, has a selection of images that follow this approach. It’s well worth having a look at the images they produce and thinking about how their collection appears as a result.