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Tru Vue Blog: 2D + 3D Photography: Practice and Prophesies

Nick Teed, ACR is Conservation Manager at the York Glaziers Trust. Nick was awarded a Tru Vue grant to attend the “2D + 3D Photography: Practice and Prophesies” conference which took place at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam from 8th to 10th May 2019.  Nick has reflected on his experiences below and how it has supported him in his professional development. 


img_5653_0.jpgWith thanks to a generous grant from Tru Vue in partnership with Icon I was able to attend the third edition of “2D + 3D Photography: Practice and Prophesies” a conference devoted to the digitization of cultural heritage, hosted by the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, with the support of the UK based Association of Historical and Fine Art Photographers (AHFAP). The conference brings together the international community of practitioners in this field in a forum that encourages the sharing of knowledge and the implementation of guidance on standards and best practice for the capture, dissemination and archiving of images of our cultural heritage.

The conference was opened by keynote speaker HRH Prince Constantijn who passionately spoke of the vital need to record and preserve our cultural heritage and his own work in emergency response with the Prince Claus Fund. The stark film footage of the recent fire at Notre Dame Cathedral and terrorist destruction of monuments in Iraq, Mali and Syria set the theme of the first session of the conference in outlining the need for high quality recording of heritage, and of preparation for the unimaginable.

img_5822.jpegFrans Pegt, Rijksmuseum photographer demonstrates how he set up a highly technical photo shoot of a silver ewer to be shot in 360 degrees

Eleven presentations followed on day one. Highlights included a talk by Millard Schisler  setting up of digitization kits and training to archives and institutions in under-developed regions of Brasil. Several speakers detailed the use of 3D capture technology for the recording and understanding of historic interiors in Sweden, baroque ceiling paintings in Germany and Leonardo Da Vinci drawings in Italy.  Emminent colour scientist Dr Roy Burns spoke of his recent work in Multi spectral imaging and Scott Geffert, General Manager for Advanced Imaging at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York rounded off the day with a panel discussion on international standards and future directions.

Twelve presentations followed on day two of the conference including fascinating insights into the digitization of the ANC archive in South Africa by David Larsen and methodologies for long term storage of digital files. Techniques of accurate digital colour management were explored and de-mystified by Andrew Bruce of the Postal Museum, London. Innovative uses of 3D recording as an aid for research and public engagement were discussed. 

The conference presentations rounded off with a look to the future. This summer the RiJksmuseum photographers will embark on their most ambitious project yet, the photographic recording of Rembrandts masterpiece, “The Night Watch”. Paintings conservator Susan Smelt & photographer Carola van Wijk explained how they would be pushing the limits to record this one painting (measuring almost 4m x 4.5m) in ultra high resolution by making several thousand images stitched together with software created in house. In addition the painting would be recorded in several wavelengths of light including Infra Red and Ultra Violet, and with X-Ray Flourescence in order to learnt as much as possible about its techniques and conservation requirements.

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Left: Carola van Wijk, Rijksmuseum photographer demonstrating a photo studio set up fro easel paintings. The easel moves to allow ultra high resolution stitched images.

Right: Rik Klein Gotink, Rijksmuseum photographer and Manon Schooneman, Rijksmuseum cataloguer demonstrate the set up for photography of Damask linen items from the collection.

The photography and subsequent conservation will be carried out in public whilst the painting remains on view, and a special rig will be built to facilitate the detailed photographic work. Professor Robert Erdmann, Senior Scientist at the Rijksmuseum ended the presentations with a dazzling look at how imaging standards were aiding the conservators, scientists and researchers in their work and how computational developments and advances that were being developed by the museum were able to present this wealth of data to a wider audience.

Workshops with the photographers and digitizers on day three allowed for much discussion and learning with the practitioners. The spirit of the conference was to share ideas and to make new contacts. Being talked through the working methods of the experts was a tremendous and eye opening experience.

img_5565.jpgScott Geffert of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET), with examples of imaging standards

The range of presentations gave an overwhelming insight into the breadth of knowledge and research and skill that exists amongst the field of digitizers of cultural heritage, which presents and extraordinary resource for those wishing to embark on a quest to raise standards in their own practice. Many large institutions will have the facilities and resources to develop their own digitization departments. Many smaller conservation studios however do not have this option and it therefore becomes a necessity that the task of recording falls to the conservator. This conference showed how much can be gained from reaching out to other disciplines for information and advice and to make contacts.

There are many valuable points of learning that I have taken away from this conference, but in particular these relate to standards of recording. As conservators we are well versed in standards of documentation. Photographic documentation is vital in this regard and we must try to follow and learn from the professionals in this field who are setting and defining international standards of their own in terms of recording detail, colour and information as well as discovering new and innovative ways of digitizing cultural heritage. By reaching out in this way and by learning what is possible I feel that networks of conservators can share ideas on digitization in similar ways. More specifically as a stained glass conservator who also photographs stained glass, I will be returning to work with renewed determination and information that will help me discover a method for the accurate colour management of our digital records.


​All images, Nick Teed ©


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