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Beyond Documentation

As a museum photographer, I get asked on occasion what is involved with my work.  What do I do?  My response is fairly straightforward, “I document the objects and exhibitions at the IMA.” But the specifics of my work are rarely detailed. And that is what I intend to do here. If you feel the intricacies of museum photography are best left unwritten then stop reading at, “I [just] document the objects and exhibitions at the IMA.”

For those of you who have a taste for the technical and an appreciation of process, begin reading here:

Art Directed Photography

Unfortunately for me (and I would argue the patron), this is what I get to do the least.

Art Directed photography requires a fair amount pre-planning and time to explore an approach to photography of an object or setting.  It requires the input of multiple parties, is of high quality, and has a distinct “look” to the final image.  These images are generally intended for more targeted uses in magazine and catalogues.

The images below of Alberto Meda’s Light-Light chair were taken with a Mamiya 645D and a Phase One P45 digital back. The inspiration came from our Senior Curator of Design Arts Craig Miller, who wanted to focus on the texture of the material. The silhouette of the chair legs emerges from the darkness to reveal the back and the carbon fiber texture.

Alberto Media, "Light-Light chair (prototype)," 1988, carbon fiber and Nomex composite. Purchased with funds provided by James E. and Patricia J. LaCrosse.

Here’s another example of an art directed photo shoot:

Allesandro Mendini and Alessandro Guerriero, "Side chair from Ollo Collection,"1988, plastic, laminate. Frank Curtis Springer and Irving Moxley Springer Purchase Fund. © Alessandro Guerriero.

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Trapped in the White Cube

Ahh, finally, my first blog post.  This post actually started weeks ago.  I’ve been patiently awaiting the return of some questions I had sent out in relation to my Flickr galleries “Trapped In The White Cube.”  The galleries are a series of images that have been captured by various photographers visiting museums around the world.  Sometimes the galleries appear to be captured in solitude, other times they are alive with a visual cacophony.

As one of the two photographers here at the IMA, I am responsible for capturing the IMA galleries in a similar fashion.  At times I capture galleries alive with its patrons.  At other times I document for posterity the space free of human distraction.  I, as those participating in my questionnaire, enjoy seeing the galleries in various degrees of these states – the sole visitor reflecting on a work of art, the mass of humanity flowing between its walls, the gallery alone asking us to reflect on the images presented, or the gallery free of any artwork or person and completely desolate.

Below are a few of those images and the responses from the photographers.  If you are interested in the photographs presented, please follow the gallery series on Flickr.

 Witold Riedel:
Witold Riedel is a creative director at one of the largest advertising networks in the world. He is responsible for a worldwide campaign, which “involves a good amount of travel.”

This image was included in the “Trapped In The White Cube” series. An excerpt from Witold’s responses to the questionnaire is below:

(via Flickr)

 What made you capture and share the image you created?

Are we talking about the picture of the nun and the dinosaur? Oh, it was just a very sweet moment at the Museum Mensch und Natur in Nymphenburg, in Munich. I had missed my flight to Moscow on that day and after visiting the BMW Welt, Nymphenburg felt like the perfect contrast. The room was very small, I had to be close to the nun to take the picture. I only had one chance to expose the photograph without disturbing the composition. I was lucky. I had set the exposure and aperture and the focus on my Leica correctly. I like that there are some parallels in the expression of the dinosaur and the nun. The picture is certainly not intended as cultural criticism. I have nothing against dinosaurs or the Catholic Church.

What type of museum objects do you enjoy the most?

I like to return to some not very loved paintings, just to discover that I have changed more than they have. And I also like to see that they are still there, in their own place. Or maybe in a new place.

I  used to stand next to the Mona Lisa at the Louvre sometimes and just look at the people coming to visit. I actually have two photo series about this on my old website. It was interesting how many visitors were not actually interested in the work, they were more interested in having a picture taken with the work. It really is about that connection sometimes. The Mona Lisa is now in a different place within the Louvre. It is now easier to take pictures with her. But it is much more difficult to see her. That might be one of the reasons why I prefer the not so loved paintings sometimes. Though they obviously must be incredibly special already, just to make it to the galleries. What percentage of the work never makes it out of storage? Some museums have created galleries that feel almost like open storage. I like that idea quite a bit.

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About Mike Rippy

Job Title: Senior Photographer
Interests: Art, Photography, Museums, Technology, Television
Favorite Movies: Dune directed by David Lynch tops my list. The Departed by Scorsese is a close second. You cannot have Airplane! and Monte Python and the Holy Grail in your top movies for comedies.
Favorite Music: White Zombie, Harry Connick Jr., Mazzy Star, Digable Planets, and the list goes on…
Favorite Food: McDouble, Popsicles, and other assorted junk food
Pets: Two dachshunds that drive me crazy and a Boxer mutt named Ginger.
Something you should know about me: I'm very interested in the museum community, especially museum content creators. I have a degree in library science. I watch too much reality tv.

Mike has written 2 articles for us.