Following on from the Book of the Dead exhibition, the Garstang Museum, in conjunction with the university’s ACE (Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology) department, won a bid to appear as an Exchange Workshop at the Tate Liverpool. The Workshop was an off-shoot of the Book of the Dead exhibition; it didn’t feature any of the actual artefacts, but focused more on the surreal nature of the imagery of the Egyptian underworld. It did this by featuring more of my photography, as well as a video by comic-book artist Leigh Gallagher detailing his design and creation of an Ammit beast for one of the comics he illustrated. Visitors were also encouraged to create their own Book of the Dead spells using drawing equipment and books supplied by the university. The spells were then added to the wall of spells. The week also featured talks by Roland Enmarch about the Egyptian underworld, and a photography workshop, which I delivered.
Because the Workshop was art-, not artefact-based, we decided to photograph more of the pieces from the original exhibition. We had a window of a few weeks between the exhibition closing at the Garstang and opening at the Victoria Gallery and Museum, so I shot a selection of small objects, such as scarabs, amulets and shabtis. I also photographed boards from a coffin belonging to man called Ipi and the beautiful anthropomorphic wooden coffin lid. This then gave us a greater choice of images to work with when selecting the final twelve photos for the Workshop.
The photography of the amulets, shabtis and coffin lid required a lot of focus stacking, as well as some modest tweaking of contrast and exposure in Photoshop.
I decided to convert the coffin lid and limestone scarab to black and white; because the colour wasn’t a feature of great importance, I felt that having the images in monochrome not only created more beautiful images, it allowed the viewer to concentrate on the textures and patterns in the wood and stone.
Because my photography featured so prominently in the Exchange Workshop, I was involved in the public outreach aspect of the Workshop. I spent time in the gallery, available to speak to the public about my photography, and I delivered a photography-based workshop twice during the week. The focus of my workshop was to:
- Speak about my artefact photography and how I’d created the images featured in the Exchange Workshop
- Help people take control of their camera by understand the settings, with an emphasis on taking photos in low-light situations, such as museum galleries (an expansion of my blog post about photography in museum galleries)
My workshop finished with a practical session photographing some small objects brought down from the Garstang’s collection.