Photographing Glass: Highly Reflective Black Objects, Part 2

This article is Part 2 of a series on photographing highly reflective black objects, often referred to as “mirror black”. Part 1 can be found here.

In May 2019, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam hosted 2+3D: Practice and Prophecies, a biennial international conference on 2D and 3D digital photography for museum and cultural heritage professionals. I was invited to lead workshops on lighting techniques for highly reflective black objects. Frans Pegt, a photographer at the Rijksmuseum, and I originally planned to jointly lead these workshops, but Frans was later asked to give workshops on the 360° capture of a masterwork in silver (another very difficult subject). However, The Rijksmuseum generously funded Frans to come to Corning in March of this year for an intensive week in The Corning Museum of Glass photography studios where together we documented lighting solutions for the objects that appear in this post.

Frans Pegt, Rijksmuseum photographer, documenting a setup in the CMoG studio.

Part 1 demonstrated techniques using a photo table with a translucent white acrylic surface that allows for both backlighting and surface lighting.

Part 2 of this series demonstrates similar techniques adapted for an opaque background, as well as more traditional object lighting techniques modified for mirror black glass, and finally some hybrid approaches.

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Photographing Glass: Highly Reflective Black Objects, Part 1

A note about this series of articles: 

Since 2015, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has hosted 2+3D: Practice and Prophecies, a biennial international conference on 2D and 3D digital photography for museum and cultural heritage professionals. In 2017, I was invited to lead workshops, in collaboration with Rijksmuseum photographer Frans Pegt, on photographic lighting techniques for transparent glass. During the workshops, someone asked about photographing highly reflective black objects, often called mirror black. Both Frans and I said: “That’s a whole different workshop!” Photographing mirror black objects is one of the most difficult and humbling challenges photographers face, but Frans and I decided we should attempt to document successful approaches. 

So, in May 2019, I led workshops at the 2+3D conference on lighting techniques for highly reflective black objects. Frans was already committed to giving workshops on the 360° capture of a masterwork in silver (another very difficult subject), so I was on my own this time. However, The Rijksmuseum had generously funded Frans to come to Corning in March of this year for an intensive week in The Corning Museum of Glass photography studios where together we documented lighting solutions for several objects that will appear in Part 2 of this series. 

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Revisiting ’79: a New Glass story

“Do you know Thomas Buechner?” we were asked after a day of interviews with lampworkers in Lauscha, Germany. Eric Goldschmidt and I were relaxing over dinner at the local glassblower’s hangout, The Gollo. News had spread in this small community of black slate buildings nestled in the Thuringian mountains, that staff members from The Corning Museum of Glass were videotaping their stories.  

Gunter Knye’s work in New Glass: a Worldwide Survey (1979), p. 123

The bartender, James, approached us and asked if we would speak with his father, Gunter Knye, who was sitting at the next table. Knye immediately asked about his friend Tom Buechner, former director of The Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) and mastermind of the 1979 New Glass: a Worldwide Survey exhibit. Buechner had visited Knye in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) during the Communist period and hosted the artist when he was given special permission to come to Corning and New York City after Knye’s work, “Bowl with White Thread Decoration” was selected for the 1979 exhibit. I replied that Mr. Buechner died a few years ago (2010) and we were both in tears remembering our friend.

Knye invited us to his home the next day to see his artwork and agreed to answer our questions about his prolific career. 

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Expanding Horizons: Class of 2019

For the fifth year in a row, The Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) is proud to have once again hosted the Expanding Horizons program. Each year, The Studio selects six students in at-risk glass art programs across the country to come to Corning with their mentors and participate in an intensive week-long experience that includes lectures, tours of the Rakow Research Library and amazing CMoG collections, demonstrations by museum staff and visiting artists, and of course, lots of glassblowing here at The Studio.

Many of the students participating in the program come from under-served socioeconomic backgrounds. With the support of the Robert M. Minkoff Foundation, The Studio provides airfare, lodging, and meals for the students and their mentors during their visit.

2019 students, left to right: Jack Spitzer, Candy Wilkins, Autiana Fain, Deaunata Holman, Lynquell Biggs, and Antwon Johnson
2019 students, left to right: Jack Spitzer, Candy Wilkins, Autiana Fain, Deaunata Holman, Lynquell Biggs, and Antwon Johnson

This year, we hosted Autiana, Lynquell, Deaunata, and Candy from four different glass programs in Chicago, Illinois, Antwon from a program in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and Jack from a program in Tacoma, Washington.   

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The Corning Museum of Glass Partners on Glass Competition Show Blown Away 

The Corning Museum of Glass is thrilled to share news of an exciting collaboration on the forthcoming Netflix series, Blown Away, which will bring the art and beauty of glassblowing to television screens around the world. A visually compelling process often described as “mesmerizing” and “captivating,” glassblowing has never been the subject of any major TV programming—until now.  

The art glass competition show created by Marblemedia, an award-winning entertainment company based in Toronto, Canada, Blown Away features a group of 10 highly skilled glassmakers from North America creating beautiful works of art that are assessed by a panel of expert judges. One artist is eliminated each episode until a winner is announced in the tenth and final episode. A co-production with Blue Ant Media of Toronto, Blown Away will air on the Makeful channel in Canada before coming to the Netflix platform worldwide later this year.

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The Studio announces 2019 Residencies

Today, The Studio announced the 2019 Artists-in-Residence recipients: twelve artists from around the world who will each spend one month at The Studio, researching and experimenting with new techniques to further their work. Additionally, two artists and two scholars have been selected for the David Whitehouse Research Residency for Artists and the David Whitehouse Research Residency for Scholars, respectively. These recipients will spend up to three weeks in the Rakow Library, utilizing the vast holdings to inform their practice or area of research. Each resident will provide a public Lunchtime Lecture during their time at the Museum, describing their inspirations and work at The Studio and the Rakow Library.

2019 Artists-In-Residence at The Studio

Shinobu Kurosawa & Jim Butler
February 24-March 24; Public lecture on March 14

Shinobu Kurosawa, Happy Christmas.
Shinobu Kurosawa, Happy Christmas.

Translated literally, the Japanese word tonbodama means dragonfly ball. Since 2000, flameworker Shinobu Kurosawa has been making tonbodama beads that depict traditional Japanese landscape and nature scenes in glass.

In her March 2019 residency, Kurosawa will use The Studio’s resources to continue her research on tonbodama and expand her flameworking skills as she explores new possibilities in Japanese beadmaking.

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The Corning Museum of Glass Surveys Global Contemporary Glass in Special Exhibition Opening in May 2019

Today The Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) announced that 100 artists—representing 32 nationalities and working in 25 countries—have been selected to exhibit in New Glass Now, a global survey of contemporary glass and the first exhibition of its kind organized by the Museum in 40 years. The show, which will be on view from May 12, 2019, through January 5, 2020, will include works ranging from large-scale installations and delicate miniatures to video and experiments in glass chemistry, all of which demonstrate the vitality and versatility of this dynamic material.

Problematica (Foam Rock), Sarah Briland

Sarah Briland
United States, b. 1980
Problematica (Foam Rock)
United States, Richmond, Virginia, 2016
Foam, Aqua Resin, glass microspheres, steel, concrete stand
With stand: 96.5 x 52 x 45.7 cm
Photo: Terry Brown

In spring 2018, CMoG welcomed submissions of new works, made between 2015 and 2018 in which glass plays a fundamental role, for consideration by a panel comprising Susie J. Silbert, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Glass at CMoG, and three guest curators, including: Aric Chen, curator-at-large, M+ museum, Hong Kong; Susanne Jøker Johnsen, artist and head of exhibitions at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation, Denmark; and American artist Beth Lipman. More than 1,400 artists, designers and architects working in 52 countries—from Argentina, Australia, Indonesia and Japan to the United States, United Kingdom, and beyond—submitted works, which draw upon flameworking, glassblowing, casting, neon, carving, and kilnworking techniques, among others. Read more →