Newark Town Hall Museum

Georgian ballroom, Newark on TrentThe Georgian Ballroom, Newark Town Hall Museum

I’ve been busy, this past week, with a little job I’m doing for Newark Town Hall Museum.  They need a small stock of photos to use in brochures and banners and other publicity material, and one of my lovely friends put my name in front of the relevant person and I was duly appointed Photographer.

What I hadn’t realised was that I’d have the bonus of getting to see parts of this amazing building to which you don’t normally get access.  It’s quite a thrill to be in a room full of old silver artifacts that are worth – literally – millions, with some of them dating back to the 1600s.  And then, even better, they unlocked the cabinets and lifted out solid silver bowls and jugs and a huge golden mace and placed them on the table for me to photograph.

Mace, Newark Town Hall MuseumThis Mace is about 3-4 feet in length; I had to stand on a chair (a rather delicate antique one) to get high enough to fit it all in the viewfinder.

Monteith bowl, Newark Town Hall MuseumThis Monteith punch bowl is solid silver, and the notches are for holding punch cups. The problem here is that the dado rail in the background isn’t straight, but if it’s straightened up then the bowl becomes angled.  Mmm….need to think what to do about this.

Thrills aside, I was a bit anxious about this particular assignment because it’s far outside my comfort zone – in fact, quite the opposite of my normal approach.  Instead of going all arty and abstract, I had to depict reality as it is (so to speak) and make things look the way they look.  The interior of the museum is quite dark, and some of the images will be blown up big and used on a banner, so a tripod was an absolute necessity (and if you know me at all, you’ll know how much I hate tripods……..).  However, it was interesting having to work this way and I do admit that my photos are quite a bit sharper than they normally are.

I’ve long had a suspicion that part of my hatred of tripods rests in the fact that I have a relatively cheap and nasty one, and that if I were to invest in a higher-end model then I might establish an agreeable acquaintance with it, although I can never see us becoming fast friends.  It’s one of those Catch-22 things, though – until I spend the money, I don’t know if I’d be any happier with a good one, and I don’t want to spend the money and find out that I’m not.

Committee Room, Newark Town Hall MuseumThe Committee Room, Newark Town Hall Museum; the paintings are of Newark, but painted by someone who’d never actually been there!

Twinning Room, Newark Town Hall MuseumThe Twinning Room, Newark Town Hall Museum

Main art gallery, Newark Town Hall MuseumMain Art Gallery view

The assignment threw up a number of technical problems, not least of them reflections.  Someone who does this sort of thing all the time would no doubt come with extra lighting and be able to sort it all out, smartish, but I don’t own any studio lighting and had to do the best I could with what I’ve got.  One framed, glass-fronted print defeated me, however.  They didn’t want to have the hassle of taking it off the wall, but I don’t think there’s any other way and it’s not going to be easy, even so.  I’ve discovered you can buy a very reasonably priced – and large – lightbox on Amazon, so I think the way forward is to get one of these and place the print inside it.

Colour balance was a bit of a nightmare as well, with a mixture of daylight and artificial light in most rooms.  Shooting in RAW means – thank heavens – that decisions can be made afterwards rather than at the time, but it’s still hard to get it looking right, with the colours as they are in real life.  It’s even harder to get consistency of colour balance between shots, and I think I still have a bit of work to do there.

The part I most enjoyed was taking the shots of the Georgian ballroom.  It’s a stunning room, with an even more amazing ceiling, and one of Newark’s hidden gems.  The Museum is tucked away inside the Buttermarket building, and it’s easy to miss.  Even if you know the Museum’s there, there’s nothing that tells you about the ballroom.  This is all going to change, apparently, as the second part of this assignment is to take a full-length portrait of an attractive lady in full Georgian dress.  Have you seen those life-size cut-outs of policemen they have in the supermarkets these days?  Well, that’s what’s going to happen to this, and in due course there will be a life-size cut-out Georgian Lady strategically placed to bring the people in.  Taken by me.

I go back in a week or so to take some people shots – the Georgian Lady, children playing dress-up in Georgian clothing, visitors to the Museum, and so on.  This part is equally challenging, because I don’t normally do people shots, and I certainly don’t do them while using a tripod.  Watch this space for part two, and in the meantime prayers, crossed fingers, four-leafed clovers, and lucky horseshoes will all be received with gratitude.


Georgian ballroom, ceiling detail, Newark Town Hall

Georgian ballroom, ceiling detail, Newark on Trent

Georgian ballroom, ceiling detail, Newark Town Hall

Georgian ballroom, ceiling detail, Newark Town Hall

Georgian ballroom, ceiling detail, Newark Town Hall

Georgian ballroom, Newark on Trent