Those of you who are avid followers of the museum’s social media channels will know that the end of July marked the re-opening of the Textiles Gallery. For six weeks or so, the gallery closed in order to undergo a facelift, and as part of the refresh it has been redesigned, and some new objects have been unveiled.
While the gallery was undergoing its makeover, the team very kindly invited me in to take portraits of the curatorial, archives and conservation team.
The brief for the job was simple. Tell the individual stories of six objects in a unique, compelling way.
Conceptually, I knew I wanted to make the images look dramatic and interesting, as well as being honest in the portrayals, and trying not make things look too staged.
Whilst sometimes I think you do have to stage manage things when taking shots like these, with these images I wanted to show what was really happening down in the basement – and there’s no reason why the images can’t also look beautiful and captivating too. For that reason, you’ll see the team performing actions that they really do have to do, and the images do have a bit of a documentary feel to them.
From chatting to the team, it was immediately clear that they were all incredibly dedicated and focused in their work, and I wanted that to shine through the images. For that reason, I chose more dramatic lighting (sometimes just using the lamps that were available to us in the room) as well as a very narrow depth of field in order to draw the eye to their actions.
Structurally, there were six objects that were being restored, and so as I photographed each object’s restoration, the camera moved closer to the object, culminating in a solo shot of it in all its glory.
When you’re shooting a job like this, it’s important to remind yourself of everything that can go wrong, in order to take measures to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
You’re shooting on location in the museum archive where you’ll be surrounded by fragile objects – if touched, those objects could be damaged beyond repair. You have to manage a Curator, an Archivist, and a Conservator who are a little anxious about firstly, having their portraits taken at all, and secondly, a photographer with all their gear in a confined space. Finally, you have three hours to do all this, and create visually breathtaking images that could be picked up by national and international media outlets.
It was a wonderful privilege to be able to work alongside the Museum to create these portraits, and I’m really proud of the results! The gallery is open every day, 10am – 5pm, and you’ll be able to see the objects I photographed.
Also thanks to the amazing Ruchi Ratna who did Hair and Makeup, and Conrad Ohnuki who assisted me on the day.
To see more of Drew’s work, click here.