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Category Archives: photography

Fitting a door into a carcass that isn’t perfectly square is a common task for cabinet makers, but it’s rare that the problem is as severe as this or on such a large scale. So I take my hat off to the Venetian joiners who installed these doors in a palazzo near the Church of Sant’ Alvise in the Cannaregio sestiere of Venice.

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Several years ago, while  trying to photograph a baroque cello that I had just completed, I hit on a way of accenting the curves of the scroll and pegbox by using a dark background and a couple of angled light sources.  I was rather pleased  with this discovery and took a series of photographs, a couple of which you can see below.

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But I was even more pleased when the cellist Steven Isserlis and the art director of Hyperion Records wanted to use one of these photographs for the cover of his recent recording of the Beethoven cello sonatas. The CD isn’t due for release until January 2014, but you can hear excepts here. I’d like to be able to add that Isserlis is playing the cello on the cover, but in fact he’s playing the Marquis de Corberon Stradivarius of 1726, on loan from the Royal Academy of Music.

 
 

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The low Autumn sunshine streaming into my workshop last week showed this oval walnut bowl in such a flattering light that I couldn’t resist taking a photograph. The bowl was being carved on the bench because my lathe isn’t big enough to turn a piece of this size.

Mind you, carving lets you do things that wouldn’t be possible on a lathe, as the photograph below shows. It’s taken from David Pye’s book The Nature and Art of Workmanship (ISBN 1-871569-76-1) and the author carved the dish out of the wood of the wild service tree, Sorbus torminalis. Service wood is not a timber that I’ve ever seen, although I understand that it was once sought after for harpsichord jacks.

I wasn’t attempting anything nearly as ambitious as Pye’s dish. What I had in mind was the egg-like form that Barbara Hepworth frequently used in her sculptures – but on a much smaller scale and as a utilitarian object rather than a work of art.

Here’s a photograph of the completed bowl, which has been finished with clear French polish.

To see a larger version of these photographs as a slideshow, click on any of the thumbnails below.

Footnote

1. Thanks to due to the anonymous photographer who posted the picture of Barbara Hepworth’s garden in St Ives, Cornwall on Flickr (http://flic.kr/p/7J4gud).

Violins are difficult to photograph but, thanks to Michael Darnton’s book on violin making, I’ve recently got better at it. As far as I know, the book isn’t published (or even finished) yet, but some chapters are available on-line. There’s one on violin photography which, amongst other good advice, mentions the ingenious technique of using a glass jar or tumbler to stand the instrument on while it’s being photographed. This is less precarious than it seems and has the great advantage of holding the violin vertically upright in a way that’s nearly invisible.

 

 

Previously, I’d used this stand, which is fine for displaying instruments but much less good than the glass method when it comes to photographing them.

 

 

Here are a couple of shots of a recent violin. They’re still not very good – the lighting is uneven, shadows are visible on the backdrop and the camera is positioned a little too high – but they’re a substantial improvement on anything I managed before.

 

 

The violin is based on an instrument made by Carlo Bergonzi in 1736 but I’ve made it three-quarter size for a violinist who, following an injury to her shoulder, can no longer play a full size fiddle comfortably.

 

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