Tag Archives: Conor Ryan

Concerns when curating an Image Collection

Curating an image collection presents its own concerns and challenges. Where photos for a collection are sourced can bring up problems, especially around ownership to images and rights to their distribution. Copyright law aside, there are ethical considerations when sourcing images. Especially when images are drawn from private collections. If the photographer is no longer alive to give their permission, like in Finding Vivian Maier, is it acceptable to bring their work into the public domain? This may be an extreme example, but it nonetheless highlights numerous issues around ethics in relation to presentation of image collection, and the attachment of information to the images. Particularly in the digital age when information can be distributed quickly and cheaply to a large audience. The internet provides numerous platforms that can host image collections, with its own set of issues. The photographs taken by Vivian Maier were purchased in an auction by Maloof who scanned them and published them online alongside his blog via popular website ’Flickr’ in August 2009– allowing them to be viewed by a large audience. Though the image collection in this example was largely ‘discovered’ in the form of negatives, physical exhibition required the collection of prints which were sold for monetary gain

Collections of images have to source their material somewhere. The purpose of the collection largely dictates where photos are sourced from and how they are presented. An amateur historian, Maloof bought 30,000 negatives at an auction – later purchasing more from others who had bought them originally. The images in question were mainly taken around New York, and Chicago over a womans lifetime as she worked as a nanny for numerous Chicago families and photographing daily. “Taking snapshots into the late 1990′s, Maier would leave behind a body of work comprising over 100,000 negatives. Additionally Vivian’s passion for documenting extended to a series of homemade documentary films and audio recordings.” (“About Vivian Maier”, Maloof Collections) This provided archival material, original negatives showcasing her natural talent which were previously unpublished and undocumented. The controversy over this collection of images encompasses privacy issues, and it is worth bearing in mind that Vivian Maier had no input in how the work was framed. How images are framed and presented in an image collection affects how they are perceived and consumed by an audience.

Curation of images requires further categorisation and the attachment of information to photos to contextualise them. Largely unknown in her own lifetime, Vivian Maier’s “discovery” began with this collection of images curated by John Maloof being published online, and later being exhibited first in New York and then internationally. She was an enigmatic and elusive character who literally made efforts to hide her work from others, and framing her work in this context gave it mystery and intrigue which was picked up on by various magazine and newspaper articles that brought her to public attention. The ‘public eye‘  has always been a powerful force, with the internet consumer interaction has changed – seeing an increased input into the process which the consumer is interacting with. Maloof attracted a lot of attention and began digging in to her history and this became a big part of the exhibition of her work. Crowdsourcing was used to source funding via popular website Kickstarter and a documentary was made, interviewing the children she used to nanny. His efforts received a lot of media attention, with articles being written about Vivian Maier who became a phenonomon. “Maloof has edited a book of her work, Vivian Maier: Street Photographer, which was published in November, and has raised money for a documentary film about her that is in the works.” (Zax, December 2011) The issue here at hand is the invasive searching for information about Maier resulting in scrutiny of the artist’s life as well as here work. Some controversy was generated by the recording of interviews of many surviving people who knew Vivian Maier during her life, building an interesting picture but also implying mental illness and a darker side to her character. Ethics and the attachment of context and information to images are concerns when curating an image collection – largely in the hands of the collectors and the gallery, but now becoming more complex in the age of information.



Works Cited

Maloof, John,, et al. Finding Vivian Maier. Widescreen. Sundance Selects, 2014.

Vivian Maier. 2016 Maloof Collections. Web. Date of Access 18 Nov. 2016. http://www.vivianmaier.com/

Maier, Vivian. Self Portrait. Digital image. Vivian Maier. Maloof Collections, Nov. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2016. <http://vivianmaier.maloofcollection.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/VM19XXW03099-04-MC_VM1956W03008-12-MC.jpg?x98642>.

Zax, David. “Vivian Maier: The Unheralded Street Photographer”Smithsonian Magzine. December 2011. Web. Date of Access: 18 Nov. 2016. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/vivian-maier-the-unheralded-street-photographer-43399/

The Museum and the Artifact in the Age of Digital Technology

Cronin discusses rules during an exhibition of bronze statues in the Getty museum preventing non-sanctioned photos and reproductions. These rules protect public domain works in an age where copies can be cheaply distributed online. “All of the bronzes in Power and Pathos are over 2000 years old, and none have ever enjoyed copyright protection.” (Cronin, 710) Beale and Perry investigate the impact of the social web on archaeological fields, which has provides a platform for a community to fill in gaps in knowledge but there are also threats: “Our applications of the social web have direct effects on users, our discipline, and ourselves; and, despite a wider failure to take account of the more negative of these effects, various archaeologists and cognate specialists have been pioneering ethically-committed, critically-aware approaches to online interactions which have the potential to reframe archaeology more generally.” (161)

Though technically almost any object could always be reproduced, advances in technology made this a much easier process. “Around 1900 technical reproduction had reached a standard that not only permitted it to reproduce all transmitted works of art and thus to cause the most profound change in their impact upon the public; it also had captured a place of its own among the artistic processes.” (Benjamin, 217-218) For Benjamin, the reproducibility of art has implications: Reproducing the material object takes away from the uniqueness of art. Nowadays, photographs and data to recreate an object in 3D can be distributed relatively cheaply online. Suo J L, et al.  give an overview of computational photography, a broad term for multiple types of computer assisted photography for capturing visual data. This technology involves capturing data using imaging and scanners.  Making 3D copies previously required an expensive and labor intensive casting process. “It is fortuitous then, that 3D scan and print technologies have advanced swiftly in this era of hyper punctilious museum curators, because these developments make it possible to replicate without physical contact, three-dimensional works in many media.” (Cronin, 713) De Reu et al. investigate the cost effectiveness of such technologies. Chow and Chan discuss a technique to effectively reproduce ceramic objects. Dawson, Levy and Lyons explain other uses in the field of archaeology, including recreating missing pieces of objects. Photography can even be used to reconstruct 3 dimensional models of lost artifacts. “It is also possible through photogrammetry to create 3D digital models from two-dimensional images by manipulating digital data obtained from these images.” (Cronin, 714) Because these can be obtained by manipulating data, there is no contact with the original artefact required.

Weinberg highlights an issue around this technology: copyright can provide grounds for policing ownership when applicable but its definition emphasises uniqueness and creative vision rather than the work done to create the material object. Issues that emerged around photography are still the subject of debate today. “Originally, photographs were not eligible for copyright protection.” (Weinberg, 3) ‘Authorship’ was disputed on the basis that a photograph is captured using a machine that controls variables light reaching a sensor to record an image. While there is a distinction between photographs with artistic character and photographs aiming to capture reality: “This distinction – while clean in theory – was and is a bit messy to put into practice.” (Weinberg, 5) Advances in technology facilitate automated image generation and the digital scan which arguably requires skill, but not creative agency as a scan is collection of data (similar to a photo) – representing an original work. While expressive scans as artistic creations come under copyright, they are in the minority and there is not actual copyright protection for most other objects in museums despite efforts to mislead the public to try prevent reproduction.

3D Printer:

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Computer showing 3D data to be printed:20161014_141218


3D  printing:20161014_141329 20161014_141421 20161014_165903

Images above taken by Donal Ryan, the 3d printers and other subjects can be seen in the University of Limerick.


Benjamin, Walter. “The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction.” Modern Art and Modernism. Pp. 217-220. Web. Date of Access: 16 Oct. 2016.

Chow, Shu-Kam and Chan, Kwok-Leung. “Reconstruction of photorealistic 3D model of ceramic artefacts for interactive virtual exhibition” Journal of Cultural Heritage 10. 2009. Pp. 161–173. Web. Date of Access: 16 Oct. 2016.

Cronin, Charles. “Possession is 99% of the Law: 3D Printing, Public Domain Cultural Artifacts and Copyright.” Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology. Vol. 17 No. 2, 2016. Pp. 709-736. Web. Date of Access: 16 Oct. 2016.

Dawson, Peter. Levy, Richard and Lyons, Natasha. “‘Breaking the fourth wall’: 3D virtual worlds as tools for knowledge repatriation in archaeology” Journal of Social Archaeology Vol. 11 No. 3, 2011, pp. 387–402. Web. Date of Access: 16 Oct. 2016.

Sara Perry, Nicole Beale. “The Social Web and Archaeology’s Restructuring: Impact, Exploitation, Disciplinary Change.” Open Archaeology 2015; 1, pp. 153–165. Web. Date of Access: 16 Oct. 2016.

De Reu, Jeroen.  Plets, Gertjan, Verhoeven, Geert , De Smedt, Philippe, Bats, Machteld, Cherretté, Bart, De Maeyer, Wouter,  Deconynck, Jasper, Herremans, Davy , Laloo, Pieter, Van Meirvenne, Marc and De Clercq, Wim “Towards a three-dimensional cost-e

ffective registration of the archaeological Heritage” a Journal of Archaeological Science 40, 2013. pp. 1108-1121. Web. Date of Access: 16 Oct. 2016.

SUO JinLi, JI XiangYang and DAI QiongHai. “An overview of computational photography” SCIENCE CHINA: Information Sciences. Vol. 55 No. 6, 2012. Pp. 1229–1248. Web. Date of Access: 16 Oct. 2016.

Weinberg, Micheal. “3D Scanning: A World without Copyright.” Shapeways. Pp. 1-16. Web. Date of Access: 16 Oct. 2016.