Portraits for the Future was an exposition of work from the inaugural V&A Dundee Masterclass, held at the McManus galleries, Dundee, 23-25 November 2011. The exposition held in The Bradshaw Gallery at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design sought to share the type of opportunity that exists in the pre-opening programme (2011-2014) and, to offer insight into the kind of activity being developed as part of the ‘Programme’ portfolio for the V&A Dundee i.e. to give an indication of the content. It was a way of developing audience understanding of the V&A Dundee and its pre-opening programme.
What was in this Exposition and Why?
An exposition is an unveiling of the process behind the act of creativity; an account of the journey undertaken to create a piece of work, irrespective of its form i.e. be it art, craft or design and irrespective of its nature i.e. history, theory or practice.
In this exposition we communicated the visual journey associated with creating A Portrait for the Future as an artwork and A Portrait for the Future as a Masterclass activity. In exposing A Portrait for the Future as an artwork, we sought to share the critical stages in the creative process, starting with a blank space and progressing to a ‘sculpture’ ready for photographing. In exposing A Portrait for the Future as a Masterclass activity, we sought to communicate the dynamic process and experience, capturing the conversations, coaching and learning activities from the start of day one to the end of day three.
The V&A Dundee Masterclass was designed with innovation at its heart so as to offer participants a stimulating and challenging experience. A Portrait for the Future was hosted by internationally renowned artist Calum Colvin, and was the first in an on-going series of V&A Dundee Masterclasses concerned with design-led innovation. The innovation aspect of the Masterclass belongs to Calum and the methodology he has honed through his career. It was supported through the innovative technology of a digital Hasselblad camera, generously sponsored by CALUMET.
Aimed at professionals working in the Creative Industries, the 3-day workshop used the Cecil Beaton exhibition as a platform for debate and inspiration concerned with how portraiture has been captured and developed since the original photographs were taken. An exhibition of portraits of the Queen by photographer Cecil Beaton was on display at the McManus, 30 September 2011 – 10 January 2012. It marked the first time the V&A has opened one of its exhibitions outside London and was part of the pre-opening programme for the V&A at Dundee.
Calum has achieved international recognition for his innovative approach to portraiture over the last decade and is acknowledged as a leader in his field of digital photography. Using the individual’s heritage as a starting point for conceptualizing imagery that tells their story, Calum builds a portrait using objects and perspective to give an image that embraces the individual’s unique personality. This innovative approach to photography formed the basis of the Masterclass which used humour, advanced photographic technology and lighting to experiment and create future portraits for the digital age.
The insights shared by Calum about how he thinks through ideas, how he makes decisions, the values he holds and the manner in which he works with his subjects, which in this instance was renowned Scottish singer song writer Michael Marra, are not presented here. These were part of the unique experience gained by the fee-paying participants.
The importance of lighting and how to maximise its use within photography was a central tenet of the Masterclass as was the use of sophisticated Hasselblad digital technology. Photographer Malcolm Finnie led these aspects.
A professional photographer with over 25 years experience, Malcolm brought knowledge of lighting, composition and teamwork in a commercial context to the Masterclass. His understanding of location and studio photography began in 1985 after establishing his own company in the Merchant City, Glasgow, the City’s cultural quarter. In his early career he worked primarily for Design and Advertising Agencies and was lead photographer on major campaigns for blue-chip companies, for example, Scottish and Newcastle, Bank of Scotland, RBS. His work also included working with royalty and celebrities, such as Kylie and Danni Minogue. In the 1990s Malcolm moved to London to take up a position as photographer for a leading London University. In 1999 he moved back to Scotland to D.J.CAD at University of Dundee where his knowledge and expertise in the field of digital photography and visualisation developed.
In conjunction with Malcolm’s specialised knowledge of lighting and using high-end digital technology, Hasselblad, the competencies gained through industry such as creativity, improvisation and negotiation were important attributes of the Masterclass. Indeed, the involvement of CALUMET was initiated by his strong relationship with Industry.