We had a fantastic AHFAP Conference this year. Thank you to David Ward, our keynote speaker, who delivered a wonderful insight into the world of his take on landscape photography and to all our speakers who made the day fun and interesting and without whom our Conference wouldn’t be possible. Also thank you to the Royal College of Physicians for the venue and the delicious lunch and refreshments. We also enjoyed various workshops, studio visits and exhibitions on day 2 and the feedback from these has been very positive, so thank you to everyone involved with those. Below are some images of the day and a reminder of the talks. There is also a conference blog from Fiona Jeffrey, this year's recipient of the Brian Tremain Bursary, on our blog pages, please take a look. We look forward to seeing you all again next year!
Keynote speaker - David Ward – Beauty, Mystery & Simplicity
David is one of Britain’s most notable landscape photographers. His work focuses on the abstract, with an amazing eye for form, detail and shape. Here he showcases his work and his unique take on landscape photography.
Louis Porter - Original Copies: Albumen Printing the Scanned Negatives of Victorian Photographer John Thomson.
Using the Wellcome library’s digitised negatives of Victorian photographer John Thomson as a test case, this paper will describe a simple, non-invasive method for producing process accurate facsimiles of fragile historical photographic material. John Thomson (1837-1921) is widely regarded as one of the founders of modern photojournalism and documentary photography. He produced the first photographs of Angkor Wat and his publications illustrations of China and Its People (1874) and Street Life in London (1878) are frequently cited as two of the most technically and visually important publications of the period. Shortly after Thomson’s death in 1921, Henry Wellcome purchased 700 of Thomson’s collodion glass plate negatives. However, as the Wellcome does not own any original positives, reproductions of the work have taken on many forms over the years. In 2007 the Wellcome imaging department produced high-resolution scans of the by then, extremely fragile negatives. Using these scans, Thomson’s extensive technical writings on photography and with the support of the Wellcome imaging department and a research grant from the London College of Communication, albumen prints of some of Thomson’s photographs of Angkor Wat have been produced. Although the paper will focus on the reproduction of Thomson’s negatives, it will also explore the history and challenges faced in the reproduction of early photographic material and the ways in which photographer’s themselves can input into this discourse.
Volker Janson - Predictable, reproducible and lossless, all-embracing reproduction of 2 dimensional objects is the number one goal in cultural heritage imaging.
This presentation shows how to achieve this by the means of image quality analysis and management. It gives a brief insight into the methods and standards used in that field. It reports how the now available ISO standard ISO 19264-1 Photography - Archiving systems - Image quality analysis - Part 1: Reflective originals were developed out of the best practice guidelines published by Metamorfoze and FADGI. We will see how the standard is structured and what the listed image quality criteria mean. We show how these methods are used to analyse imaging systems. We see how the practical implementation of image quality analyse is done in digitization projects running under Metamorfoze or FADGI Guidelines governance. We will introduce the separation into different image quality levels depending on the original material and the reproduction purpose. Last but not least we will show how much a digitization project will benefit from using these workflows.
Gavin Willshaw - National Library of Scotland experience of using the new Book2Net Dragon V-Shape system for high-throughput digitisation of medieval manuscripts.
The National Library of Scotland recently began digitisation of a collection of over 200 unique and fragile medieval manuscripts, many of which date from as far back as the 9th century. Funding was secured from a private donor and a deadline was set for all material to be digitised and available online by the end of 2020. To complete digitisation in this timeframe, the Library procured a Book2Net Dragon, the only viable camera system on the market that could digitise material of this nature quickly, safely and to a high standard. This paper will give an overview of the Library’s selection criteria and reasons for purchasing the system, summarise the Dragon’s key features, and provide an honest assessment of the digitisation team’s experience with the equipment to date. It will discuss the balance the Library has been able to achieve between maintaining quality and high throughput while minimising damage to manuscript volumes. Furthermore, the paper will outline how this new work strand has been integrated into the Library’s wider digitisation programme and the strategic aim to have a third of National Library collections in digital format by 2025.
Geoff Laycock - Digitising Sudanese Culture; Adapting a project to challenging conditions
In museums, archives and libraries we are used to delivering digitisation to the latest standards and in the best conditions. This paper will focus on what happens when digitisation projects are delivered in more challenging global situations. Working on a British Council Cultural Protection Fund project in Sudan has asked serious questions about the best approach in a rapidly changing situation. An initial plan focussed on engaging with large scale institutions has evolved into working with an increasing number of local volunteer teams using consumer digitisation equipment and minimal training. The question has had to be asked, “When it comes to digitisation; what is good enough in terms of quality in order to protect endangered culture?”. The paper will focus on how the project team coped with a fluid project landscape and how the result will be an online resource that is perhaps richer and more representative of Sudanese culture than the original approach would ever have been. The paper will centre around the decisions that had to be made and how returning to the aim of the project; preserving Sudanese culture, generated innovative solutions to issues. This insight could be of real value when applied to similar challenges the audience may face with their projects.
Lindsay MacDonald & Taylor Bennett - Reflectance Transform Imaging
We are using photography with directional lighting for capturing image sets of Roman writing tablets. This is part of a project between the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents (CSAD) in the Faculty of Classics at Oxford University and the Museum of London. The presentation will consider the issues of photography for RTI, and will compare the performance of the new system with the conventional PTM and RTI techniques. The new web-based OxRTIViewer provides options for multiple annotation and drawing layers, enabling palaeographers anywhere easily to view each other’s interpretations and collaborate across the internet. New technology has been developed to extend the capabilities of Reflectance Transform Imaging (RTI) for palaeography. First, a new RTI dome has been designed with 128 LED lights, with the innovation that the majority of the lights are concentrated at low angles of elevation, to increase the angular resolution and enable finer discrimination of surface features. Second, new software algorithms take advantage of the additional images to analyse local reflectance gradients. Third, a new interactive web-based viewer (OxRTIViewer) for RTI files has been written in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) for viewing and sharing the image sets in web browsers. Archaeology (MOLA), studying the cache of wooden stilus tablets found at the Bloomberg site and dating from the early days of the Roman settlement in London. A Nikon D800E with several lenses is mounted at the top of a dome illumination system, with micro-controlled LED lighting.
Carola Van Wijk & Henni Van Beek - Operation Night Watch - High resolution imaging of Rembrandt’s largest painting.
Henni and Carola will talk about their work, research and experiences leading up to the Nightwatch project. The Rijksmuseum has just started a project for the conservation of the Nightwatch, which will take 3 years. The painting has been placed in a space of glass, so the public will be able to watch every move. Photography will be a very important part of this project and in cooperation with Robert Erdmann, the team is faced with a lot of challenges.
Ali Meyer - The Buddhist Legend in Stone – bringing Borobudur to Cyberspace
Light is the secret of photography. The lighting conditions give full expression to the plasticity and the vividness of the fine art masterpieces. With over 40 years experience of photography and 20 years at the forefront of digital imaging, Austrian fine art photographer Ali Meyer was responsible for the principal photography of the Borobudur Temple Compounds in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. People think that stone is dead, but if you look at it, it changes its expression every second with the light. In two, four-month-long sessions, photo campaigns had been conducted by photographer Ali Meyer, during which each one of the figurative panels and figures of the monument were photographed perfectly lit during night hours. The over 20.000 images were collected to became part of a virtual navigation system, giving instant 3D access to any point of the Borobudur. Large parts of the temple were also recorded in Quicktime Virtual Reality mode with some 120 shots for each 360 degrees panorama, taken at different times of the year, in order to ensure optimal lighting conditions. The pictures of the Javanese-Dutch photographer Kasian Cephas from the 1890's provide the basis for the first publications. About 100 years later Ali Meyer´s digital photography from 2009 and 2010 provide the demand of our modern time – bringing Borobudur to Cyberspace.
James O’Davies - Photographing Industrial subjects
Using two unique and rarely accessed case studies, a talk that discusses the importance of record photography as a means of preservation.
The Central Government War Headquarters. This is a 35-acre complex built 120 feet (37 m) underground as the United Kingdom's emergency government war headquarters – the hub of the country's alternative seat of power outside London during a nuclear war or conflict with the Soviet Union. It is located in Corsham, Wiltshire, in a former Bath stone quarry known as Spring Quarry which In 1940 was acquired by the Minister of Aircraft Productionand used as an underground engine factory. It was commissioned in 1955, after approval by Prime Minister Anthony Eden not only to house government and war rooms but to also house a BBC transmission studio, libraries and telecommunication systems. Underground, pitch black and in some areas rotting with damp, a unique photographic record was made to record a vast underground city with some surprises in store.
England’s redundant, post war coal-power stations. “Coal and oil-fired power stations are among the largest and most recognisable industrial complexes the 20thcentury produced. They had a profound impact on the British landscape, visually, environmentally and culturally, and the electricity they generated had a transformational impact on our economy and society.” Neil Cossons. Now with a closure programme for coal powered electricity due to end in 2025, these enormous structures along with their distinctive cooling towers will no longer be a feature we mark our landscape by. Given unprecedented access by the power companies, this talk will showcase the work of two Historic England photographers whose imagery and documentation of buildings, plant and infrastructure mark the record prior to demolition.
An insight into two complex industrial landscapes which few have entered, let alone record photographically. Meeting challenges at every turn the problem solving demands of photography was pushed to the edge.
Kevin Percival - A New History of Medicine
Covering more than 3000m2, the new Medicine galleries at the Science Museum will be almost double the size of the previous galleries, and reflect the dynamic and varied nature of Medicine and global health now in the 21st Century. As the sole photographer for the Science Museum's Medicine project, I have had the privilege of not only working with these vast and fascinating collections for the past two years, but also to attempt to give a human face to these stories. As museum professionals we are naturally inclined towards intriguing or beautiful objects, but in an arena as intensely human as Medicine it becomes essential to relate the clinical to the ordinary. Incredible, but often un-relatable, technology must somehow sit alongside flesh and bone. Much of this linking is done through story-telling, and much of this is visual. Throughout the project I photographed over 1000 objects, provided 360 degree rotational photography, and produced gallery views, press pieces and photo-stories. I also illustrated two books offering different approaches to understanding and engaging with the collections. In addition, I shot a series of studio and environmental portraits of individuals who have pushed medicine forward over the last 60 years. These diverse practitioners, patients, researchers and teachers allow visitors to explore their stories through oral history and imbue the objects with a human emotion appropriate to such universal themes.
This paper intends to explore the ways in which stills photography has been used to enhance our understanding of this vast subject and its wildly varied facets: science, technology, religion, belief, trust, ethics and death. I will give a tour through the varied collections on display, touching on photographic technique along the way, explore some of the stories prompted by these incredible objects, and discuss the use of personal stories and of documentary and portraiture photography approaches within this context.
Mark Schlossman - Extinction. Photographing endangered and extinct animals and plant at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.
In photographs and in text, the project documents over 130 species of endangered and extinct animals and plants – specimens found in the collections of The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago – to generate an overview of the accelerating loss of biodiversity. The images lead the reader to the species’ stories, promoting a greater understanding of conservation efforts, reasons for decline (including climate change, habitat loss and overexploitation) and mankind’s stewardship of life on Earth at a critical time in history.
I started the project over a decade ago because I felt that large-scale issues, such as habitat loss, were not getting enough public debate and I wanted to say something about human domination of the biosphere by examining the reasons for biodiversity loss.
The 130 species are enough to provide a review of the extinction process. I chose many overlooked, non-charismatic species, highlighting the equal importance of every species in an ecosystem. The work to conserve non-charismatic species needs more public attention, more funding and more research compared to charismatic species with donor appeal.
A natural history museum exhibits less than one percent of its specimens. The photographs were made behind the scenes in the Field Museum’s collections, revealing specimens.
Harrison Pim - Computer Vision at Wellcome Collection
In the last decade, the cutting edge hardware used to capture images has seen enormous changes and improvements, most of which will be well known to the audience. However, you might not know that there's been an equivalent revolution going on in the world of computer vision, where researchers have been teaching machines to process and interpret visual content.
A few mathematical and computational discoveries at the start of the decade inspired a new way of allowing machines to learn from data, with hundreds of new tasks becoming possible as a result. These days, machines can understand, interpret, and describe visual material in a fraction of the time it takes a human, with a higher degree of accuracy in many cases.
These new computational abilities are particularly useful at Wellcome Collection, where we're digitising roughly 10,000 new images every day. Creating the kind of detailed catalogue descriptions we need in order to make them accessible to the public is near impossible for our human cataloguers, so computational assistance is crucial. We've developed new, machine-learning driven ways of exploring and connecting the collection, which I'll demonstrate interactively as part of this talk.
Having covered the recent history of the field and the ways that we're applying current state-of-the-art techniques at Wellcome, I'll point out a few promising areas of current research which might have an impact on photographic fields soon.
Laurie Lewis - keynote speaker
Laurie Lewis ARCA, MA, MFA attended art schools at Walthamstow and The Royal College, The University of California, Motion Picture Division, UCLA.
He made documentary films in the USA covering the Chicago Democratic Convention riots and on gun control for Warren Beatty. In the UK, he made a feature film on the camera-makers Gandolfi and concert films with Frank Zappa, The Rolling Stones and Ian Dury.
As a photojournalist, he has worked in disaster zones covering earthquakes in Kashmir, volcanic eruptions in Iceland, shot magazine features in Nicaragua, South Africa, Russia, China, Indonesia, the Himalayas, France and the USA.
As arts correspondent, his work has appeared in The Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, the Guardian, the Independent, Rolling Stone magazine, Time and Life, focusing on classical music, ballet, dance, rock’n’roll and jazz.
His portraits, made in the studio and more often on location, appear in the collections of the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Hôtel de Crillon, Paris.
He has had exhibitions at the Royal Academy, the Photographers Gallery and at the Hankyu Gallery in Japan.
Andrew Bruce, Digitisation Officer, The Postal Museum
A Blank Slate (Setting out to deliver first class digitisation)
The 2017 opening of The Postal Museum marked London’s first new major museum in a decade. The new museum was designed with a purpose-built digitisation studio to not only support the documentation, preservation and access of the large and varied collection, but also to provide a revenue stream by offering digitisation to external museums, archives and individuals. With no pre-existing in-house digitisation efforts or projects the creation of The Postal Museum Digitisation Studio allowed for a completely blank slate.
Just like planning a fantasy football team who hasn’t whiled away the hours considering the way they would set up their dream museum studio?
One year on from opening this is our story of how to set up a digitisation studio from scratch. How to set up a new studio with no baggage or legacy systems to contend with, the practicalities of space, choosing paints, finding the perfect black flooring, choosing kit, finding staff, designing workflows, benchmarking, our decisions to work with imaging standards and the success of offering digitisation to external institutions.
Jason Candlin, Silverbeard Images
From Medicine to Museums
This paper will discuss a personal account over a three year journey from being one of the countries leading Medical Photographers to working as a freelance commercial photographer in the cultural heritage sector.
At the beginning of 2017 I took the plunge and went fully freelance launching myself as a commercial photographer, this came with the obvious challenge of putting the word out and finding work. After 25 years of working in photography you’d think the phone would never stop ringing the reality is it takes time, however what the 25 years does bring is 25 years of contacts and networks. After a rocky start which saw me still supplementing my photography income with other work, I landed a contract working for a publishing house and digitisation agency who were collaborating on a project with the Imperial War Museum. My skills in the medical and scientific world stood me in good stead for the challenge of Museum work.
Having worked as a Medical Photographer at various levels for more than 25 years I found myself in the unfortunate position of being made redundant at the end of 2015. Having done the same thing for such a long time I struggled to decide what to do next. Into 2016 and I had a variety of interim roles but all the time I found myself migrating back towards photography.
This was the springboard I needed, I learnt new skills and honed existing skills, learnt how to deal with contractual matters, and above all got into the habit of self directed working. I now do a variety of work as a commercial photographer with specialist skills in medical, scientific and now the cultural heritage sector. I have contracts with a number of organisations, a few repeat clients and a new network of growing contacts.
I’ve made it through the dark days post redundancy and managed to find my place in the world and my business is now growing and whilst its a little scary at times it really is enjoyable and I have rekindled a passion for what I do.
Kieron Cheek, Assistant Digitisation Photographer | Alfred Gillett Trust (C & J Clark Ltd)
Footwear in Focus:
The Alfred Gillett Trust was formed in 2002 by members of the Clark family, to professionally manage, preserve and promote the extensive collections amassed by the family and its famous, long-established shoemaking business. For the last four years, we have been engaged in an ambitious project to photograph over 25,000 shoes, sandals, boots, slippers, clogs and other footwear, creating a large archive of high-quality digital images for both Trust and company use. The collection is extraordinarily diverse, ranging in date from the Roman period right up to the present day and featuring the work of many different designers and manufacturers in a vast array of different materials, as well as examples of traditional indigenous footwear from all over the world.
For historical reasons our shoes have been stored, cared for and documented in a fairly inconsistent and haphazard way. Accordingly, from the very beginning the digitisation work has been integrated into an ambitious multidisciplinary project to assess, treat, redocument and rehouse the objects in line with current museum practice. Although the project is still ongoing and will be until at least 2021, we are very pleased with the work we have produced and want to start sharing it. We would therefore like to present to conference a short overview of the project and some of the highlights and challenges we encountered in working with this unique and fascinating collection.
Amelie Deblauwe, Senior Digitisation Technician, Digital Content Unit, Cambridge University Library
How colourful could ‘Life of Edward the Confessor’ be?
The colour profile of a digital image will face multiple challenges throughout its journey, from creation all the way to publication. Accuracy, consistency, and reproducibility are amongst them.
This talk will explore different aspects of colour management surrounding the digitisation of a 13th century manuscript ‘Life of Edward the Confessor’ including the photography-related concerns, the publication of images in a mainstream magazine, and the relevance of faithful colour reproduction in the context of academic and scientific research.
Further to visual assessment and software-assisted analysis, spectrophotometer measurements across various media and devices can reveal discrepancies in output and highlight the need for consistent set-ups and protocols. We will examine briefly the implications of these.
Lastly, we shall consider what happens once an image leaves the protective environment of your servers and gets a life of its own. Is there a place for creative license in publication of archival images? When does a reproduction stop being a helpful tool?
Hans van Dormolen
In this paper I’ll give an overview and an update of the adoption, present and future use of the Metamorfoze Preservation Imaging Guidelines. The Metamorfoze Preservation Imaging Guidelines are published by the National Library of the Netherlands in January 2012. The basic principle of the Metamorfoze Guidelines is “what you see is what you get”. That means that no visible information of the original is lost in the preservation master file. To do so, the tonal capture (white balance, exposure and gain modulation) has to be correct. So correct tonal capture is one of the most important objective measurable criteria to carry out (mass) digitization projects according to Metamorfoze.
Since its publication in 2012, the Metamorfoze guidelines are used and adopted worldwide by the cultural heritage community and by camera & scanner manufactures. In 2017, ISO/TS 19264-1 is published. This ISO standard is based on the Metamorfoze and FADGI guidelines. Metamorfoze version 2.0 is under construction now. A new element in version 2 will be the use of formula CIE2000SL=1 to specify color accuracy.
Ben Gilbert, The Wellcome Trust
Stories of science, medicine, life and art:
Our health is bound up in so many aspects of our existence. Wellcome Collection’s online stories explore the many and varied ways in which science, medicine, art, and the connections between them all, challenge, inspire and shape our lives.
Listen to a handful of these stories and go behind-the-scenes on a recent ambitious commission to document and celebrate the NHS turning 70.
Dave Green, Dave Green Gallery
Digitising the Beaford archive
Two years ago I took on the challenge of an 18-month contract to digitise 10,000 35mm monochrome negatives and 2,600 contact sheets from the Beaford archive, convert them to positive images, enhance and clean up as appropriate. The archive totals 80,000 negatives spanning an 18 year period from 1971. Roger Deakins, the acclaimed and now Oscar-winning cinematographer, started the archive in 1971, under the direction of John Lane, then director of Beaford Arts. The following year it was continued by James Ravilious, son of Eric, for a further 17 years. The Hidden Histories project, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and others, is an ongoing three-year project of which my involvement was for the first 18 months. 1,500 of the Ravilious ‘best’ and ‘good’ images were already held in digital format in the archive; my task was to digitise 9,000 of the ‘poor ‘and ‘fair’ of his work and 1,000 never-before-seen images by Deakins.
For my presentation I would like to take delegates through the process and experience of this commission from choice of equipment and setting up the studio, to digitising contact sheets and negatives, training and role of volunteers, inverting to positives, enhancing through Lightroom to cropping and spotting in Photoshop. The presentation will be well illustrated with pictures from the process and with the iconic images of rural life produced.
Elizabeth Hunter, British Library
The Endangered Archives Programme
The programme was set up in 2004 with an initial grant of £10 million from Arcadia (a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin) and is administered by the British Library. The programme’s aim is to help save archives that are at risk of deterioration or destruction making the material available for scholarly research. The digitisation equipment is then left within the country to encourage further initiatives.
They have supported over 350 projects so far in more than 90 countries from Armenia to Zanzibar and there are now more than 6 million images online. Many grant recipients had succeeded sometimes against all the odds, and the E.A.P. team felt it was important to share the knowledge gained and put together a handbook, which has just been published through Open Book Publishers to help future grant holders.
My involvement with the project came about because they wanted to show in the book, examples of images that weren’t up to their required standard next to images of how they should ideally look, and give advice on how to achieve the result.
They also invited past grant holders to talk about their experiences and I will be sharing some of their anecdotes along with photos of the archives they were planning to digitise.
Blazej Mikuła, Senior Digitisation Technician, Digital Content Unit, Cambridge University Library
If ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ what is a video worth? In my opinion, quite a lot and, thanks to the new technology, making films easier than we think. Good film needs a good story and in our collections we have all sort of treasures waiting to tell their own stories. So why not make a film about it?
In this presentation I will share my simple working method and techniques and describe the equipment needed to make a short film on a budget and how to set up for filming interviews, editing and uploading the final product on YouTube. This session aims to provide a more practical approach in making a short film that is visually attractive, short and on a budget.
A good story is all you need. 4K Red Scarlet is nice but will my mobile phone do? Any story needs good audio.
What is most challenging in filmmaking is a gripping story but I imagine that this one won’t be a problem.
Jacqueline Vincent, Brechin Imaging Services / The Brechin Group Inc
Cambodia’s Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum Archives: onsite photographic digitisation, preservation and online access of historical records from the Khmer Rouge S-21 Prison for UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme. Photography is about communication using light and the captured images to tell stories; cultural heritage digitisation links past, present and future with those images. Our project role is to communicate and share digitisation and preservation skills onsite with a team of local Museum staff and DDD university students to photograph and scan archive collections.
Held within the Archives of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (TSGM) is the unique and largest collection of over 400,000 forced confessions and biographical documents, photographs, negatives and bound materials from the notorious S-21 prison during the dark days of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge reign against the Cambodian people. An estimated 17,000 people were held at S-21, tortured and eventually killed.
TSGM Archives was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register in 2009. Funded by the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and overseen by UNESCO, the TSGM Archives Preservation and Digitisation Project was launched in January, 2018 and by the end of this project anyone with access to the Internet anywhere in the world will be able to view, edit and use the TSGM Archives.
In our presentation, we will describe technical challenges of working onsite in a developing-world museum environment where climate control and power fluctuation are not optimal. We will discuss our technical solutions as well as best processes to maximize production while meeting and exceeding international archival imaging quality standards.
As the most important aspect of this project, besides the creation of digital images, is the capacity building of the Museum staff, another challenge has been part of our project. Cambodia has not seen a project of this extent and technical level, hence the challenges of spreading expertise to local staff in a sustainable way and hence our hope on setting a new standard of digitisation in Cambodia.
Even though the production is structured and doesn’t change from one day to next, every day there is a new surprise regarding the archives. One day we discover new documents; on another we find a new digitisation challenge.
The archives of Tuol Sleng are a treasure, in a sense that it has not been totally discovered, which makes the project team feeling like explorers in a vast history of this former prison.