For almost half a century the Science Museum’s Shipping Galleries housed a national treasure – a collection of model ships that celebrated the UK’s maritime history. Since the Galleries were decommissioned in 2012 however, the models have been tucked away in storage and hidden from public view.
The fragile constructions are placed in protective cases that ensure their preservation and protect them from environmental changes – but their delicately constructed hulls and sails are now difficult to see, the craftsmanship hard to appreciate.
The Science Museum wanted an imaginative way of bringing the models to public attention again and so invited artistic duo Anderson & Low to photograph the collection.
The fragile models couldn’t be removed from their protective casings for the photoshoot, which posed a challenge to the photographers. But, instead of working against them, the protective coverings became a part of their artistic process, serving as filters that make the images look like hand-painted seascapes.
“From the first snap we took on our phone of a ship model through its protective polythene, the inherent Turner-esque qualities were apparent. It was not something that we imposed at all, it was just there,” say Anderson & Low.
The duo decided to do away with studio lighting and use ambient conditions to photograph the models – light filtered and scattered through creating different moods and blurring the actual context in which the images were shot. Stories began to emerge; tales of journeys through tempests, the discovery of magical worlds and epic voyages to strange lands.
“All of those painterly, literary and musical references – Rembrandt, Turner, Aivazosky, Shakespeare, Melville, Hemingway, Britten, Debussy and countless others – they were inherent in the material, just sitting there, waiting to be discovered,” say the photographers. According to the pair, they were able to “see” these stories in the models, which they can now share with the world as the images are on show at the Science Museum.
A book titled Voyages, which features 43 full-colour plates and contributions from the Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford and the Museum’s Keeper of Technologies and Engineering Dr David Rooney, has also been published to accompany the exhibition.
“The remarkable photographs offer a unique opportunity to see our historical model ships and boats through new eyes,” says Rooney. “People of all ages love our models, but we can all benefit from seeing them afresh thanks to the breathtaking creativity of Anderson & Low.”
Voyages is exhibited at the Science Museum till June 15 2017.