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Tate Galleries Create Digital Archive

07/09/2009 Hasselblad Repro Mode, Multi-Shot & HTS provide unique solutions

The recent conversion of the Tate Galleries from film-based to digital archives has been highly successful, due, in large part, to the exceptional solutions provided by Hasselblad.

Great Britain’s four Tate Galleries - Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool, and Tate St. Ives - attract 8 million visitors a year and 20 million more to the website, tate.org.uk, to enjoy some 90,000 paintings, sculpture, photography, prints, watercolors, and multimedia installations from the Tate Collection. The Photography Department’s Head of Photography David Clarke, Deputy Head Marcus Leith, and Photographer and Acquisition Manager Marcella Leith oversee more than 15,000 new captures.

In 2007, they decided to convert their remaining analog capture to digital. They realized the project would demand a versatile, powerful, high-quality camera system - one that would be as capable on location as in the studio, able to replace medium-format and 4x5 film solutions, and capable of producing consistent, reliable results.

They purchased three 39-megapixel Hasselblad systems for the task: one with multi-shot capabilities, for superior fine art reproduction, and the new HTS Tilt-and-Shift adapter. The photographers used a tool in Phocus called Reproduction Mode, which increases the level of accuracy, reducing the amount of time needed in post-production - a vital consideration with such a large catalog of work to document.

An unusual application of the camera was creating 3D models of extremely delicate, rare plastic sculptures in need of restoration. With the help of the University College London, a system was developed to use single shots from a Hasselblad from different angles to create a perfect, highly detailed 3D model.

The Tate has used the HTS tilt-and-shift adapter to make images that would have been extremely difficult otherwise, including large works with reflective surfaces. When the camera was centered, it was reflected back in the final capture. With the HTS, the camera could be slightly off center, capturing an image of the artwork without reflections. They also used the HTS in gallery installations to achieve perfect perspective or maximum depth of field.

While the Tate Galleries have invested heavily in Hasselblad systems, the artistic and business results are clear.

For more information, see “The Tate, London” in the Hasselblad User Showcase.