Behind the Scenes at the Fashion Museum : Photographing a Collection | The Fashion Museum

Behind the Scenes at the Fashion Museum : Photographing a Collection

One of the best collections of gloves in the world is housed at the Fashion Museum Bath. The Glove Collection of the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London.

28 August 2019

The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London was formed in 1349 by glove makers in London who wished to protect the high standard of their craft. It was granted its Royal Charter by King Charles I in 1638.

The Company maintains close links with the British glove industry, promoting the wearing of gloves and contributing to many charitable causes. Its own charity, The Glove Collection Trust, has a world-class collection of over 2000 single and pairs of gloves, dating from the 1500s to the 2000s.

Last year, a project was undertaken to consolidate the entire Glove Collection Trust collection which had previously been stored in multiple locations around the country. The collection was brought together to be documented, photographed and organised and then transported to Bath to be stored and cared for by the Fashion Museum.

Some 130 historic gloves, exquisitely embroidered examples from the 1600s, were already at the Fashion Museum and have been on loan since the 1980s. This project has added around 1800 more gloves from the 1700s to 20th century. The entire collection is now housed and cared for by the Fashion Museum and is available for anyone to view at the Fashion Museum Study Facilities. You can find out more about booking a session here: https://www.fashionmuseum.co.uk/study-facilities.

We spoke to photographer Celie Nigoumi about her role in the Glove Collection Trust Photography Project.

Image: Celie Nigoumi

What was the Glove Collection Trust Photography Project?

The project was put in place so we could create an archive of images of this huge collection of gloves from the 1600s up to modern day. I worked on this project over a period of 7 months and produced a collection of more than 11,000 images.

I worked with Fleur and Rosemary from the Fashion Museum, who trained and supported me in handling the fragile original gloves, made decisions on styling and type of images needed, planned the labelling of the image files and organising the folders. We worked our way through over 200 boxes of gloves!

The goal was to create images that documented the gloves accurately, but were also engaging and interesting for the viewer. We wanted to capture the vast array of techniques, styles, details and stories present throughout the collection.

What was the working process for the project?

The gloves were carefully compiled and labelled by Fashion Museum Manager Rosemary into hundreds of boxes in chronological and/or designer order. This meant we could easily spot fashion and material trends so we could learn more about the collection as we got further into the project and modify our method to best suit the objects.

For consistency, all the gloves needed to be photographed the same way, whilst also showing off the uniqueness of each pair. I decided on 3 set poses, with about 5 more specific shots, capturing the material, stitches, patterns and colour in detail. I made sure that the first shot of each contained the gloves label, so I could name, file and manage the digital system coherently. 

I photographed each pair individually in a lightbox to ensure the lighting and colours would be balanced, consistent and bright and edited the images with the glove next to me for an accurate description of colour and texture. Photographing about 15 - 20 pairs of gloves at a time before moving on to editing allowed me to have a frequent change of scenery and position. 

What were the trickiest gloves to photograph? 

The trickiest gloves to photograph were the white lace gloves. Making them stand out against a white background took some trial and error but it was a great learning experience and my studio lighting skills definitely improved by the end of them! There were such a range of textures and sizes during the project and the shoulder length ones would only just fit in the lightbox so I sometimes had to adjust my process to fit the object. 

Any surprises or discoveries along the way?

I was really surprised at how tiny a lot of the gloves were! It seems people used to be slimmer and therefore had smaller hands and fingers, but also the leather shrinks down slightly when it hasn’t been worn or stretched for a long time, making them appear even smaller!

 

Do you have a favourite glove?

My favourite item was definitely the Cosmonauts Glove. I was obsessed by how fascinating all the little clips and contraptions within it were, as well as the fact I was touching an object that has actually been worn in space! It felt kind of surreal and I took so many photos of it because I kept finding new intricacies and strange looking poses for it. 

Celie’s wonderful glove photographs have been made available online on the Berg Fashion Library, will be regularly shared on our website and social media, and can be seen out and about at the moment on our posters and billboards!

The Glove Collection Trust collection is available for anyone to view at the Fashion Museum Study Facilities. Find out more about booking a session here: https://www.fashionmuseum.co.uk/study-facilities.

Highlights from the collection are currently on display throughout the museum galleries in Glove Stories, from 2 March 2019 to 1 March 2020.