One of my favorite projects from my time working at the Peles National Museum has to be the exhibition of the Royal tableware. Conceived as a glimpse inside the habits and inner-workings of the way the Royal family would have breakfast, lunch and dinner, the exhibition took everything from silverware, table cloths and fine china to the logistics and protocol employed by the Royals for each and every meal.
The catalogue for the temporary exhibition proved to be a difficult beast to tame, mainly thanks to the fact that I had never before photographed fine china and silverware as a set. It’s one thing doing a piece at a time, but a whole other ballgame when having to cram twenty or more pieces in a single photograph… and then make it look good and appealing.
A typical placement. This is an actual tableset used by Romanian royalty.
The placesettings needed to be right. I had curators to handle that. But the photographs had to convey the feeling of actually being at a Royal affair. And that proved trickier than I thought at first. Another issue I faced was the fact that most of the pieces of silver were bigger than the photographing tent I had to work with. So I was forced to get creative. I used polystyrene as a white-ish background and took a photo of each piece individually.
That way, I was left with the simple but painstaking job of cutting them out of the background and making a collage.
Arrangement of gilded silverware.
A rough, un-edited photo. To give you an idea of the process.
Some photographs required a macro lens and attention to detail. Unless it’s a masterpiece, you don’t use more than one photo for a single piece in an art catalogue, so you have to convey the depth and detail of works of art using a single photograph. Sometimes it gets tricky when deciding angle and camera position.
One of the worst things when dealing with metal and china is the fact that reflections cannot be avoided, especially when trying to eke out fine details.
This set proved difficult to photograph thanks to its great size.
The photograph I used for the cover took about an hour to set up. It depicts a typical breakfast arrangement. It was painstakingly cut since I couldn’t move the table out of the room and didn’t have a big enough background.
The “breakfast” room in the Peles Castle.
Countless pieces were photographed, most of which did not make it into the final catalogue.
Attention to detail was a primary concern.
Sometimes the depth of field from the camera lens is enough to convey the delicacy of the piece.
Although rare, I did shoot crystal. I had to use a velvet background to make the glass stand out. However, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the result.
Handling the pieces requires the steady hand of a surgeon.
The tablecloth needed to take center stage but it would have seemed barren if not for the few pieces of china and the solitary tablespoon.
There were over 200 different sets of fine china.
Photographing furniture is difficult enough as it is. You can see the un-edited version of this photograph below.
This is the rough, un-edited photo of the piece of furniture (a credenza) used in the catalogue. The final version is above.
I have selected a few pages from the catalogue to showcase here. In total, it has 92 pages (with covers).
Video from the opening of the exhibition
Thanks for looking through my work. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to let me know.