Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Plastics in print

On 10th and 11th December, MoDiP played host to a team from Dorling Kindersley who were here to photograph objects from the collection for a new book entitled ‘Design – the Definitive History’. We booked a small room for the shoot that quickly became filled with equipment: reflectors, diffusion screens, lights, power generators, tripods, an assortment of backgrounds, power cords, sync cords, more cords, a laptop and, perhaps the most important bit of kit, the camera (a tethered Mamiya Leaf with a Phase One digital back). 

A modern camera worth as much as a family car, capturing the image of a Polaroid Instant 30 land camera AIBDC : 005272 that would have cost the equivalent of two tickets to the cinema back in the 1970s. Note the obligatory blue, object handling gloves!

I learnt some great photography tips. For example, did you know that the slightest imperfection on a dark object can scatter the flash light, causing a series of white dots to appear on the final image resembling a fine layer of dust? Or that when photographing transparent objects, using dark card to reflect the flash enables the capture of a finely, defined edge that would otherwise be lost in pure white light? Apologies photographers – you will probably know this already.

The images were all saved directly onto the photographer’s laptop as huge TIFF files which enabled him to clearly see distracting compositional elements, depth of field/focus issues as well as unwanted reflections or shadows. Once he was happy with the images, we would remove the object and supply the next one from their list. So, if you were in the library at that time and saw us walking continuously to and from the store carrying a variety of strangely packaged items, this is what we were doing.

I was surprised by how slow the whole process was, with each object requiring lots of changes to the lighting, diffusers, reflectors and backgrounds - it has certainly made me realise that the life of a professional photographer is far from easy. However, it was a really productive two days and we made some great new friends.

It is a real compliment that we were asked to supply design classics for Dorling Kindersley and it will be interesting to see how many of our objects get into the final book, release date May 2015 (ish). Here are a few of my favourite objects from the ones that were photographed:

Salad bowl with black servers resembling sparrows.  AIBDC : 006699. I love this so much I am going to buy myself a set to use at home.

A glow-in-the-dark puppy dog shaped stool. AIBDC : 006725. What’s not to like?

Ekco type A22 radio, 1945. AIBDC : 006891. This is huge, heavy and beautiful. I have a soft spot for Bakelite.

 Katherine Pell (MoDiP Administrator)

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