The modern-day Museum Photographers

By guest blogger Kate Elliott

During the current Creative Photography Course at the V&A, designed and led by artist Kate Elliott, a group of six students are working as Museum Photographers, to create a modern-day ‘portrait’ of the V&A.

Kate Elliott group portrait
The Museum Photographers © Kate Elliott

With references to the work of Charles Thurston Thompson and Isabel Cowper (the V&A’s first staff photographers), the group are exploring a combination of architectural, portrait, documentary and reportage photography, to develop a collection of images that depict their individual views and interpretations of the building, its inhabitants, and activities and events that take place there.

This blog post highlights an edit of images taken during week two of the course, with the focus on the building.

John Francis_1
© John Francis

John Francis_2
© John Francis

John Francis_3
© John Francis

David Marlow-1
© David Marlow

David Marlow-2
© David Marlow

David Marlow-3
© David Marlow

John Hinshelwood_1
© John Hinshelwood

John Hinshelwood_2
© John Hinshelwood

John Hinshelwood_3
© John Hinshelwood

Janice Weston_1
© Janice Weston

Janice Weston_2
© Janice Weston

Janice Weston_3
© Janice Weston

Gary Williams-1
© Gary Williams

Gary Williams-2
© Gary Williams

Gary Williams-3
© Gary Williams

Background to the project:

Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the V&A (then the South Kensington Museum) understood how photography could extend the reach of the Museum. In 1856, he appointed his brother-in-law Charles Thurston Thompson as Museum Photographer. The first museum photographic service was born.

Thurston Thompson was supported by non-commissioned military officers of the Royal Engineers, whom he trained in photography. When he died suddenly, his sister, Isabel Agnes Cowper, took over his post, probably the first woman to hold such a role.

Museum photographers captured the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions, recorded the condition of artworks and travelled abroad to document art and architecture. They also photographed the construction and expansion of the Museum. Their images provide a valuable insight into the development of the 19th-century Museum and are works of art in their own right.

One thought on “The modern-day Museum Photographers

Nick Gregan:

Following in the footsteps of pioneering photographers is a hard act to follow, but this selection of images is a credit to the photographers. I particularly like the two photos by John Francis and the two by Jancie Weston. I love the way John’s images use composition to draw you into the depth of the images whilst Janice’s strong graphic photos offer a completely different view point that are both bold and artistic.

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