Testing the Photography of Sculpture: Pilot 1, York

An important part of our project Development Phase is to test out how we can produce consistent, high-quality images of sculpture in varied locations and situations across the UK. During the project Delivery Phase (subject to a successful second-round application to the Heritage Lottery Fund), we will be employing multiple professional photographers, who between them will photograph an estimated 85,000 sculptures in 2,800 participating public collections.

We need to be able to work in lots of different places and settings, so it’s important to test out now how that might work. Some sculptures will be on public display, but we estimate that around 80% of works will be in storage. Many sculptures will not be able to be moved and will be photographed in situ, but some might be suitable to move into a temporary studio set up in a store, office or corner of a gallery.

We will be doing two pilot photography sessions during the Development Phase – the first at York Art Gallery, then in late August we’ll go to Paisley Museum & Art Galleries. Both institutions have kindly given up their time to let us practice on their collections.

We spent three days at York Art Gallery this week in what turned out to be a very busy time for their staff! The art gallery has been closed for refurbishment for some time and re-opens on 1 August 2015 after £8m of improvements, including new galleries and the creation of the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA). The staff let us work around them, with us photographing the sculptures on display as they attended to their finishing touches in the galleries.

CoCA houses the most representative public collection of British studio ceramics in the UK and this fact brought the first dilemma – when is an artwork a sculpture and when is it studio pottery? A number of the pieces in their collection could fall into both categories, so whilst we were there we decided to photograph some of the more ‘sculptural’ studio pottery works, for further consideration. This included a ceramic figure by Grayson Perry (below) and a figure of Madonna and Child by Philip Eglin. We need to give some more thought to how we define sculpture and how we communicate our remit to the collections, so I’ll be bringing this up with the Your Sculpture Steering Panel at our next meeting.2015-07-20 10.17.09Our photographer, Colin White, was keen to test the photography of sculpture of different sizes, shapes and surfaces in a variety of different locations around the building. Colin had a plan for using the minimum amount of equipment during the shoot, to ensure that the methodology is easily transferrable to other photographers across the UK. Using one light, a roll of paper on a stand for the background and large pieces of card, he was able to adapt his equipment for all of the locations in which the sculpture was displayed.2015-07-20 12.08.44Coordinator Alison Mitchelson gave Colin a hand whenever he needed it, such as holding a piece of card to prevent glare on shiny sculptures:2015-07-20 12.24.41Alison and I also looked at how the Coordinators might record the sculptures during the Delivery Phase digitisation and tested a checklist we had devised in advance.

Colin took multiple images of each work, but one set of sculptures are displayed high up on the wall over the staircase, so in this case he was only able to take one shot of each work:2015-07-20 14.58.37Works in display cases or with reflective surfaces were photographed with the camera poking through a black piece of card. This prevented the camera equipment and the photographer being reflected in the photograph:2015-07-21 10.14.35After completing photography in the galleries, we moved into the art store, where we set up a temporary studio area. The same photographic equipment was used in the studio setting, but instead of taking the camera to the sculptures, the sculptures were brought in one at a time and put on the table:2015-07-21 13.25.57On the last day, Colin tested out taking multiple images of a sculpture for photogrammetry (below), to create a 3D image of the work. We look forward to seeing the results.2015-07-22 11.03.59I will put some of the completed sculpture images into a separate blog post once they have been processed.

Thanks again to all the staff at York Art Gallery, especially Martin Fell and Graham Thorne, for accommodating us at such a busy time. The galleries look amazing and I would urge you to visit once it’s re-opened.


Introducing our Sculpture Collection Researcher

The Public Catalogue Foundation recently advertised for a Sculpture Collection Researcher for the Development Phase of the Your Sculpture project. After an intensive recruitment process, we are delighted to announce that the successful candidate is Dr Anthony McIntosh. Anthony’s role, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, will be to survey the UK’s public organisations to gain an understanding of the nature and extent of their sculpture collections. He will also research the location of public monuments and sculpture around the UK.

Here, Anthony introduces himself and tells us about his interest in sculpture:

“I have recently been appointed as the Sculpture Collections Researcher for the Your Sculpture project. As a development of the superb Your Paintings website, it is a really exciting initiative and I am equally excited to be part of this early development stage.

Since finishing my PhD at the beginning of 2014, I have been working as a freelance researcher and lecturer. I have done work for a diverse range of clients that include Professor Mark Stocker of the Museum of New Zealand in Wellington, NZ, and a company in Hastings who are engaged in creating several installations in Dover to commemorate the centenary of the Great War. I am currently carrying out research work for Ann Compton, who was Project Director for the wonderful Mapping Sculpture online database. Ann is currently writing a book about the makers and methods of sculpture in Britain between 1851 and 1940. In addition to working as a researcher, I occasionally give lectures at the University of Brighton on the use of oral history as a research tool.

Although I love to look at new public sculpture, ironically I am often drawn more to those pieces that have disappeared, or that are being grossly neglected. I am fascinated by the lost biographies of sculpture that once graced our streets and parks. I have an article in the forthcoming issue of the Sculpture Journal that discusses a statue of Captain William Pechell (below), a hero of the Crimean War. Matthew Noble_1I discovered the statue in 2007 slowly disintegrating in undergrowth in Brighton’s Stanmer Park. This statue by Matthew Noble once dominated the vestibule of the Royal Pavilion, but is now a sad example of what can happen to important pieces of commemorative sculpture once the generation who erected it have gone. Matthew Noble_2I have recently been digitising the Captain’s letters home from the Crimea for the Somerset family in Worthing.

Before I started my PhD, I was the Research Officer for the Sussex Recording Project, a collaborative project between the University of Brighton and the PMSA that aimed to detail all of the public monuments and sculpture in Sussex. You can find the database online at: www.publicsculpturesofsussex.co.uk. I still occasionally add new objects to the database at the request of the sculptor. During that project I discovered many fascinating stories of ‘lost’ objects. Not many people, for instance, would know that the allegorical group of statues surmounted by Queen Anne at the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral is a copy (below, first image), and that the original is eroding away behind The Ridge in Hastings (below, second image). Queen Anne_1

Queen Anne_2The detective work involved in revealing these lost and neglected pieces is often fraught with difficulty, but ultimately really rewarding when their present or past existence can be brought to the public’s attention.

After the Sussex project ended I worked as the Administrator for the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA) in London, until I received a full Arts and Humanities Research Council grant to continue with my PhD studies full time. The work that the PMSA continues to do on the National Recording Project is integral to the discovery of many such objects and I would like to pay tribute to the individuals all over the country who have worked tirelessly to record, and where possible photograph, our sculptural heritage. Very often they are receiving no financial or other institutional support but are carrying out this work fuelled only by a passion for sculpture and a determination to document this aspect of the nation’s heritage for posterity – usually resulting in the publication of another superb volume in the Liverpool University Press Public Sculpture of Britain series. Our own Sussex volume was published in November 2014.

My PhD focused on two case studies – both public monuments that have been moved or demolished. One of them, the Prince Albert Memorial Clock Tower in Hastings, is probably talked about as much now by the people of the town as it was before it was demolished in 1973 (see below).HastingsMy PhD explored the way in which public monuments can become so central to community life that they come to represent the identity of particular towns and cities and of the people who live there. They become places embodied with meaning and sites rich with individual and collective memory. My study also revealed the importance of large central monuments to a range of community events such as carnivals, Whit walks and other ad hoc celebrations, such as those at Christmas and New Year. I am also very interested in objects associated with parades and processions such as banners, particular forms of dress (both of these often homemade) and in rituals such as ‘marking the bounds’.

Amongst the many things that my previous roles and my PhD studies revealed, one of the most important, I think, is that the monuments and public sculpture that local communities embrace and become emotionally and passionately engaged with are not always those that academics and experts feel are ‘worthy’ of study or conservation. That fact alone has frequently made me think about what the word public really means in the term public sculpture. I recently visited Seaham in County Durham on the way back from the Borders in order to look at a new sculpture titled ‘1101’.Tommy_2The sculpture by local artist Ray Lonsdale, and named ‘Tommy’ by locals had been placed on the seafront temporarily, but had become so loved by the local community that they raised the £85,000 necessary to purchase it and it will now stay onsite permanently. I viewed the work for approximately two hours and during that time there was a constant stream of people of all ages arriving to look at the piece; families, individuals, young people, disabled people. It has clearly become part of the fabric of the community there and is already functioning as a spatial and temporal location for the creation of public memory. I remember thinking that what I was witnessing was the real meaning of the phrase public sculpture.

The Your Sculpture project is in its infancy but will, without doubt, become the most important initiative to date in ensuring that our rich sculptural heritage is documented and the data made easily accessible online to everyone. I am delighted to be a part of that undertaking.”

If you would like to contact Anthony about the project, please email: Anthony.McIntosh@thepcf.org.uk

Your Sculpture project post: Sculpture Collection Researcher

The following project post is now open for applications:

Sculpture Collection Researcher (Your Sculpture)

REPORTS TO: Project Manager (Your Sculpture)

LOCATION: The Sculpture Collection Researcher will work from home, so applications are welcome from all parts of the UK

SALARY: The contract is for a maximum of 75 days over 8 months (c.9 days per month). The daily rate is £100 per day, up to a total contract fee of £7,500.

CONTRACT TYPE: Part-time and temporary. This is a freelance, self-employed post and the Researcher will be responsible for their tax, NI contributions and public liability insurance.

We seek a Sculpture Collection Researcher to undertake an extensive, detailed survey to determine the nature and extent of public sculpture collections and sculpture in the public realm in the UK during the Development Phase of a Heritage Lottery Fund project, Your Sculpture, working towards a second-round Delivery Phase application.

Job Description

The PCF are seeking to employ a Sculpture Collection Researcher to research the location of sculpture collections in public ownership throughout the UK. The successful candidate will contact and liaise with selected institutions in the UK and gather set information about their sculpture collections and other sculpture-related holdings, e.g. films, audio recordings. They will also need to research the location of public monuments and sculpture in selected areas of the UK, in liaison with the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association. All gathered data will need to be collated and the results presented in an agreed format. Full details of the Your Sculpture project will be provided and the candidate will be required to undertake training and review sessions, as required.

PCF are seeking a candidate with a proven attention to detail. The successful candidate will be a point of contact for art collections about the sculpture they hold and so must have strong proven communications skills, both verbal and written. An interest in art and awareness of UK art collections is essential.

Essential skills

  • Experience of research and proven track record of an ability to gather accurate information and present it in a clear format
  • High level of attention to detail
  • Excellent IT skills (including Microsoft Office, Outlook)
  • Strong diplomatic and communication skills to work successfully with a wide range of people
  • Self-motivated and reliable, with a clear focus on reaching deadlines on time
  • Interest in art and awareness of UK art collections

HOW TO APPLY: Please send a CV and covering letter to Katey Goodwin, Project Manager, at katey.goodwin@thepcf.org.uk with ‘Sculpture Collection Researcher’ as the subject.

CLOSING DATE: 9am on Monday 9 February 2015

Interviews will be held on Thursday 19 February 2015 at PCF Head Office, 33 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7JS.

It is hoped that the successful applicant will commence the role in March 2015 and complete the work in October 2015.

If you have not heard from us by 12 February, please assume that you have not been successful. Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to contact every candidate individually.

About the PCF

The charitable mission of the Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) is to transform access to the UK’s publicly owned art, much of which is not on display, for enjoyment, learning and research. Its priorities lie in mapping art collections, encouraging public engagement with them and improving our knowledge of these collections.

Your Paintings is the PCF’s flagship website showing the nation’s entire oil painting collection in public ownership, photographed by the PCF over a ten year period. Working closely with collections up and down the country, PCF completed the digitisation programme in late 2012, by which point it had recorded over 210,000 paintings from over 3,000 collection venues. The website www.bbc.co.uk/yourpaintings was built in partnership with the BBC.

Future plans for the PCF involve replacing Your Paintings with Your Art, a new and improved version of the website, which will constitute a unique and powerful digital showcase of art in the UK for audiences across the world, and feature the UK collection of sculpture alongside the paintings already shown. The PCF is a registered charity with number 1096185.

Your Sculpture: Connecting UK Communities with their Sculpture Heritage

The PCF has chosen sculpture to be the focus of its next major digitisation programme. As with oil paintings, we estimate that approximately 80% of publicly owned sculpture remains out of sight or inaccessible to the public. Creating public access to this hidden heritage will enable anyone with Internet access to uncover the hidden treasures and stories behind the UK’s sculptural heritage.

Your Sculpture will cover sculpture of the last 1,000 years, created within and outside the UK, including non-European sculptural objects. We will be working in partnership with the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA), who photograph and catalogue outdoor sculpture across the UK.

The PCF has received initial support of £2.84m, including a development of £109,700, from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Your Sculpture project. The Development Phase of the Your Sculpture project will run throughout 2015, in advance of a second-round application to HLF. If this application is successful, the Your Sculpture project Delivery Phase will commence in 2016.

[Image caption: Sculpture in store at Staffordshire Arts and Heritage]