2010-2020: Shooting the past


I can't quite believe that it's 10 years since I started this business and as I look back I can see how much it has changed and evolved. This month I'm going to talk about what started this journey - heritage photography. I love this part of my work - both in the amazing objects I get to shoot for organisations but also the people I've coached whilst running my heritage workshops. My first shoot: 8th March 2010 At the time I was volunteering at the local museum helping to catalogue objects into the collection. They discovered I was into photography and they were struggling to shoot a particular piece of Victorian costume - a mourning bodice. Jet black with beading - so tough to capture without the right kit. So I went in and spent a day shooting a variety of costumes - mostly Victorian. I loved it - I had discovered my 'thing'!! As a result the curator saw the benefit of better photos and started hiring me and things went from there. Now looking at some of those photos I know I would shoot them differently/better today which just shows how you never stop learning when you discover photography! Most historically significant: In 2016 I was hired to take photos of the Black Prince's Achievements for Canterbury Cathedral (Achievements are armour and weapons that were traditionally displayed above the tomb).  Parts of this collection which had been on display in a cabinet on the wall of the cathedral were going to the V&A for an exhibition so it was an ideal opportunity to both photograph them properly and assess their condition. With priceless artefacts such as this great care is taken not to expose them unnecessarily to strong light so I have to work efficiently and carefully. The textiles are rare in that ones from this period of history - the 1300's  - rarely survive unless they are ecclesiastical robes. A couple of years later I took part in an event at the cathedral where the replicas created in the 1950's, and displayed above the Black Princes tomb, were taken down for cleaning. I had to wear a hard hat and high-vis vest to go up the scaffolding to take photos of them in situ before they were taken down! All with the public watching on!  One of the most bizarre: Shooting Arthur the lion for St Albans Museum. Arthur is somewhat of a mascot for the museum  and at some point was in a cupboard - many local people remember asking to see the lion in the cupboard when they were children. So why is he a bizarre object? Because he's only half a lion (hence his name)! He probably was part of a diorama in the past but looks very odd side on! A favourite? I can't possibly choose one object that's my favourite even though I have been asked many times. The stories associated with many objects are heartwarming, funny and connect us to the past. It's what makes this aspect of what I do so fascinating and eclectic. Worryingly there are too many things now appearing in museum collections that are from my lifetime! Highlights though, are; pressed flowers from WW1, drawings of spacecraft designs from the 1940's. the scrapbooks of Eric Ravilious, suffragette memorabilia, an Ivor Novello award, and the set of photos taken for a joint exhibition with Bishops Stortford Museum - Beautiful, Vulnerable and Inaccessible in 2011 (see my website for the gallery of images). Since 2010 my work has expanded to include more commercial work for small businesses who need images of locations or products.  Through all these years, alongside this work, has been the workshops and lessons helping people like you get more confident with cameras and photography and I've loved every minute of it! I'm looking forward to the next 10!


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All images © Sarah Holmes 2020 No reproduction without prior permission.