Category Archives: Multimedia

Vermeer’s Camera and Tim’s Vermeer

Today tutor Russell Squires posted an extremely fascinating post on the Facebook OCA Level 1 group. It is a presentation by Prof Phil Steadman from the UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources Department on a short synopsis of his book Vermeer’s Camera which was published in 2001.

In his presentation he shows that Vermeer definitely used tableaux for his paintings and highlights repetitive features that occur in several of Vermeer’s paintings. Most interesting though is the absolute detail that Vermeer captured in his paintings and he compared various pieces of furniture and other items that exist in museums to Vermeer’s paintings and found that the detail was practically a carbon copy. This led him to explore the possibility that Vermeer used a camera obscura to paint his masterpieces. He also figured out methods to determine the size of Vermeer’s studio. Tim Jenison, founder of NewTek, a company in San Antonio that specializes in special effects and visual imaging software read Steadman’s book and decided to recreate Vermeer’s studio to scale and try out Steadman’s theories. The results are stunning. By using a camera obscura and mirrors Jenison was able to recreate the tableau before him. What is important to note though, is Steadman’s remarks on the tonality of Vermeer’s paintings. Vermeer would never have been able to recreate the tonal graduations that occur in his paintings without the use of the camera obscura as the human brain automatically renders the colours to what we expect them to be.

A documentary movie has been made about this and I’m going to see if I can find out more about that. I’m definitely going to look in more detail at Vermeer’s paintings from now.

Reference List

Lecture, Vermeer’s Camera and Tim’s Vermeer [webcast, online] Pres. Prof Phil Steadman, UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources, UCL Lunch Hour Lectures, UK, 10/03/2015. 41 mins. (accessed 28/08/2015)


Photographer Giles Penfound on Storytelling with the Art of Photography

Giles Penfound is a professional photographer who spent about 25 years as a documentary photographer in the British Army. In this inspiring video Penfound gives insights and thoughts as to his method of working out in the field.  Penfound’s work is very thought provoking and his conflict photography spills over with empathy. His key criteria is that one has to be honest and that begins by being honest with oneself. He is particularly drawn to people and often found himself photographing unfolding situations instead of photographing the PR side of things for the army. Also telling is his statement that one does not always have to be profound or have a deeper mean. Engaging with the subject is also important for him. It is important to make that connection. Storytelling does not necessarily have to comprise a collection of images or a long project, but some of the most telling stories can be told in a single photo. Penfound states that we often discard people we should photograph because we know them (family and friends) and think they won’t make good images, but they do and we need to remember this. It is vitally important to remember this because in that single image there is a story.

Reference List

Giles Penfound | The Storyteller | Photography [vidcast, online] Neale James, Breathe Pictures 27/07/2015. 27 min 23 secs. (accessed 03/08/2015)


Pictures on a Page [online]. Available from: [Accessed 3 August, 2015]

Archambault, Michael (2015) Photographer Giles Penfound on Storytelling with the Art of Photography. [online]. PetaPixel. Available from: [Accessed 3 August, 2015]

Photography in the Street and Studio

While trying to find some background research on street photographers using colour I happened across a series of panel discussions on the Tate website. It centred around discussion on an exhibition called “Street and Studio” in 2008 and various panelists delivered short talks about different aspects of the exhibition. I found the talks very informative, the first one particularly so as it covered a brief history of documentary photography (a very succinct synopsis) and Steve  Edwards, Art History professor from the Open University offered some very interesting points about the differences between street and studio photography. There are three direct oppositions that he emphasised namely that:

  • the street represents the urban; the studio represents inside the studio (the constructed view)
  • the street is documentary; the stage (studio) is constructed
  • the street produces documents (a documentary or recording); the studio produces pictures (constructions in art galleries).
Street and Studio PT 1
Click on image above to access video

Another interesting panelist discussion was by Stephen Bull, author of one of this course’s prescribed readings, namely Photography. Bull spoke about Celebrities in the Street and Studio which is what is covered in chapter 9 of his book. Characteristics of paparazzi photography are badly composed images, strange poses (the subjects caught in a variety of compromising positions or with the wrong partner) and many that are out of focus. Because the majority of these photos are compositionally rather bad, they are regarded as unstaged and truthful, revealing what the subject is really like. What I found really interesting is that the paparazzi digitally manipulate their images to make people’s various body parts look bad and this is often featured on the front pages of tabloids, with headlines such as “stars and their cellulite” or “stars without their makeup”. I haven’t actually got to this part of the book yet, but did have a quite flip through while listening to Bull’s talk and I think he cover’s most of that particular chapter here.

Stephen Bull Click on image above to access video
Stephen Bull
Click on image above to access video

I found it really helpful to really hear an author’s explanation of his writing – straight from the horse’s mouth to use a cliche. Steve Edward’s lecture was also extremely easy to follow and simplified a few things such as the objective and subjective view.


Photography in the Street and Studio video recordings, (2008) [online] Tate Modern. Available from:

  • Session 1: Documents and Pictures.  34 min: 33 secs [Accessed 3 June, 2015]
  • Session 5: Celebrities in the Street and Studio. 36 min: 26 secs [Accessed 3 June, 2015]