Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Museum Visit: Glyptothek

The Glyptothek is Munich's museum of Greek and Roman art, primarily sculpture, but also containing some mosaics and armor. Graphically this is not very relevant to photography, although the honesty with which some of the sculptures portrays the wrinkles of age, is quite reminiscent of the literality of a photographic portrait, versus the flattery of a 16/17th century oil portrait. Visiting this museum also provided me with an opportunity to do a little natural light portraiture with subjects unlikely to move during the process.  The museum has fully natural light during the day and as flash is forbidden (thank goodness), a fast lens and high ISO are needed to create an acceptable photograph.  All of the following use a fast 50mm lens with an ISO of 200-400.

The most famous sculpture in the museum is the Barbarini Faun (220 BC), a remarkably real and sensual portrayal of the male body

The following photograph is of what used to be a series of figures decorating the entrance to a temple and represent Greek soldiers from the times of the Persian wars (510-480 BC).  The central upright figure is Athena, her role to decide which warriors live or die.

This was a tricky photograph to take as it needed depth of field and hence a high f stop, but with very difficult lighting, I risked 1/60s and f/8 with ISO 400.  The lens has no image stabilization and as a result I needed to keep in mind the reciprocal focal length rule, i.e. keep the shutter speed faster than 1/"focal length".  

Moving on the next photograph is not terribly remarkable other than that it is Alexander the Great and reputed to have been carved in his presence.  So this might be one of the most famous faces in history

In the roman period the statues started to become less idealistic and offered a more realistic portrayal of the human experience.  The next statue is a beautiful study of an elderly man, I can almost see him standing in front of me, his features enhanced by the strong side lighting.  The image is a little soft as I allowed the shutter speed to drift to 1/45s, ideally I should have managed a maximum of 1/60s.

The next sculpture was really remarkable, a drunken woman sprawled on the floor imploring the world for something.  Perhaps there was a moral message in this piece.  

One of the more impressive aspects of visiting the museum is that the works are very simply arranged and in such a way that you can walk around and fully examine each one from every angle.  This also allows a photographer to play with depth of field and angle.  In the following photograph I selected a very shallow depth of field and positioned myself very close to the sculpture, throwing the background into a soft blur

The museum also hosts works by more recent artists; scattered within the ancient statues were a number of very modern works

My final photograph shows the classical exterior architecture of the museum, the first test of my new 24mm tilt-shift lens

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