In this post, we continue to unwrap the ways in which we’re documenting our project by looking at how it’s being photographed. Nowadays, and especially in our digital age when we all have cameras we take photography for granted. But photography of art, and in this case paintings, is a highly specialised skill – as many of us have probably discovered when we’ve tried and failed to take decent shots of paintings on visits to museums and exhibitions. We’re therefore very fortunate indeed in being able to count on Glasgow Museums photographer Maureen Kinnear as one of the Stirling Maxwell Research Network team working with us on the project. Maureen is an extremely modest person who is happier hiding behind her camera but for this blog post we’re not only able to provide a photographic glimpse of her at work (courtesy of her colleague Jim Dunn) but Rosie Thorp also persuaded her to give us a short interview about her work on our project, which we share below. We’ll continue exploring the photographic documentation of our project and its special significance within research on Stirling Maxwell and Spanish art in another post.
Interview with Maureen Kinnear, Glasgow Museums Photographer
R: How long have you worked as a photographer for Glasgow Museums?
I’ve worked in the photography department of Glasgow Museums for over 30 years. I initially worked at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum before moving to the Burrell Collection, and I’m now based at Glasgow Museum Resource Centre. I spent five years working as a black and white printer before becoming a photographer.
R: How did you get involved in the Unwrapping an Icon project?
I got involved in this project because I work closely with the painting conservator. My role is to record the paintings before, during and after treatment.
R: What did recording these paintings involve?
My brief is to provide a full record, including photographing the painting in normal and raking light, as well as under ultraviolet light and infrared.
The raking light image can give information on the paint application technique and also the method. It can show any damage, lifting paint or paint layer deformation.
Ultraviolet light shows the surface coating, the consistency of the varnish layer and the presence of retouching – so revealing information on the past treatment and nature of the varnish layer.
The infrared photography I do reveals light under-drawing and areas of damage but does not reveal as much as infrared reflectography would show (see also Mark’s interview to see how infrared reflectography was used in this project).
R: What other involvement have you had in the project?
For this project I’ve also recorded the subjects of the paintings to show close-up detail of the costumes. I’ve recorded the reverse of all the paintings too, with details of labels and inscriptions and have documented the technical and scientific examination that was carried out on all of them. I’ve also recorded events throughout the project, including the trip to the Vet School to use the x-ray machine.
R: What camera did you use?
The majority of the photography is done on a Hasselblad H3D II-39MS – H Series camera, which a lot of museums use, as it produces large file sizes allowing greater detail to be seen and suitable for reproduction in high-quality publications.
R: Do you always use a tripod for paintings or are there times when handheld is better?
When we’re photographing paintings in the studio, a tripod is always used. When I’m photographing people I use a Nikon D800 with and without a tripod, depending on the situation.
R: Are there special lenses you tend to use, for example, for the details in paintings?
For the Hasselblad the lens I use is the HC Macro4/120mm. This has exceptionally high performance making it a very versatile lens not only for close-up work but general applications too. For the Nikon, the lens is Nikon 24-120mm f4 G AF-S ED VR – so, for example, this is the equipment I used to photograph Damiana and Ailsa from Historic Environment Scotland carrying out the infrared reflectography and the photographs at the Vet School.