Documentation is an important part of any research project. On our Unwrapping an Icon project, we’re privileged – and very grateful – to have filmmaker Joe Briffa to help us to capture some of the highlight events and record the methods we’re using to collect information. Not many projects of our relatively small scale and budget have this luxury but the fame of the Lady in a Fur Wrap and the debates surrounding the artistic attribution and identity of sitter make this a special case. But of course using film to document our research has its challenges too. Doing any film shoot, but especially ones outside of our – and Joe’s – base in Glasgow, like the research trip to Madrid or the research workshop in London in February, mean dealing with a number of factors that usually can’t be fully assessed till the day itself, such as what the space to work in is like, including its lighting and acoustic conditions.
Usually Joe travels relatively light, as the idea is that the filming is as unintrusive as possible. That way, we can get on with the research itself, or the meeting or workshop, and the people concerned can relax and act naturally, though occasionally we decide to do short pieces to camera. We’re very aware that we’re asking rather a lot of our filmmaker, as obviously it can difficult to know if something happening or being said is really important if you’re not a specialist in the field and at the same time you need to keep an eye on all the technical issues. Added to that, the filming Joe does for us needs to be multipurpose – firstly, as a record of the whole event which we can refer back to; secondly, as short, edited footage for our blog posts, webpage or for the press; and thirdly, for some slightly longer films on particular aspects, which we’ll edit towards the end of the project.