Wiki loves art/NL part 2

The first two weeks of fieldwork at the Tropenmuseum have generated so much stimulating new information, that it is hard to choose out of many possible topics. For now, I’ll stick to the event described in Anne’s earlier post: the photo competion WikiLovesArt/NL.  The basic idea, as Anne already mentioned, is that people make photographs of objects, art works, etc. in the participating museums, and upload them to Flickr. Some of the best photos will be placed on Wikipedia pages, but there are also other rewards (for instance, 500 euros worth of photo equipment). The idea is that participants upload their photos to their Flickr account under a Creative Commons  licence. Subsequently, they become members of the Wiki loves art Flickr group, and place their photos in there. A jury, consisting of the organizers and employees of the museums, decides which photos will be used for the Wikipedia pages (I’ll dedicate another post to this jury system). The Tropenmuseum is also participating. Indeed, a lovely intersection of two of the project’s case studies.

At the time of writing, 130 out of 866 photos in the WikiLovesArt/NL pool are tagged with Tropenmuseum. This is one of them, by 23dingenvoormusea.

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 Another participant commented on the photo, asking 23dingenvoormusea how s/he managed to photograph the drum through the showcase glass without reflections. The discussion that followed is an excellent example of how users shape what they take to be ‘realistic’ representations of the object. Interestingly, using Photoshop to get rid of reflections, and to enhance contrast, white balance, and sharpness, is considered as legitimate, even neccessary, in order to get at the real.

Last Tuesday, we interviewed the moderator of the Tropenmuseum Flickr group and his girlfriend, two enthousiastic amateur photographers who love to talk about their work. When I approached him for the interview, I also mentioned my interest in his experiences with the Tropenmuseum’s collection database. He mentioned that he had never taken a look at it before, which was intriguing in itself, and that he had only done so because of the interview. He was not very positive about the experience. According to him, the photographs of objects he found were very dry, documentary, only interesting for research purposes, while he tried to make photographs of the museum objects he really felt for, cherished. This he believed to be a more artistic approach to photographing the objects, with a different end result. His remark triggered me to search for the same drum as is displayed above in the museum database. Here it is, see what you think:

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I’ve been spending some time with the museum photographers. They discuss each other’s work as well, for instance the lighting conditions, providing the objects with the ‘right’ shadows, etc.  This photograph was taken in their studio, not in the museum. I think the photographer in this case deliberately chose to photograph the object from this particular angle, to bring out the shape of the object itself, and of the geometrical marks and carvings of trees, people etc on the drum/woman’s belly. This said, looking at this photograph is quite different from the experience of looking at the Flickr photograph, also due to its different context, not to mention the difference with seeing the object in the museum itself, amidst other objects, beautifully lit, etc.

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