Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Day With a Photographer

By John Hart, Assistant Curator of Collections

As the Coordinator for Rights, Reproduction and Photo Sales at the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum, I often get to call upon our local museum friend and photographer, Richard Walker and his wife, Zibby. Richard has been taking photographs of objects at the museums for quite some time and I am fortunate enough to work with him to photograph newly accessioned objects, update our existing cache of images, or discuss ideas for future projects.

Bear and Pears, 1825-1835, Unknown artist, Oil on wood panel. N0044.1961. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY. Photograph by Richard Walker.

It wasn’t until after I started working with Richard that I found out that I was already very familiar with his work. Richard has done photography for the Newport Restoration Foundation, based in Newport, RI, where I held an internship in 2007 while a student with the Cooperstown Graduate Program. Talk about small world. (Oddly enough I found out recently that Chris Rossi, our Associate Curator of Exhibitions, designed and constructed the object mounts that I had to fuss with while doing inventories at Rough Point, the home of Doris Duke that the Foundation operates.)

Indian Maiden, (Detail) 1865-1875 by Thomas V. Brooks (1825-1895), Wood and paint, N0041.1972. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY. Photograph by Richard Walker.

I have always been interested in photography but never had a real knack for it, though after watching Richard during our sessions, I’d like to think that I’m learning something as I share stories and the history of the objects with him. It’s amazing how a slight change in lighting or angle can create a more dramatic effect on a piece or make the colors ‘pop.’ And as we phase out the use of transparencies, at least to a certain degree, having digital images created by an artist in his own right helps us not only share our images with the world, but also create a lasting record of the object for future condition issues, cataloguing, etc.

Harvesting Hops near Cooperstown, New York, 1884 by Frank Waller (1842-1923), Oil on canvas, F0077.1998. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY. Photograph by Richard Walker.

Without a doubt, the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum will have a long lasting relationship with Richard as a photographer, but more importantly as a friend and patron, a feeling that is mutually shared.

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