I, Photographer: Museum Shooter | Popular Photography

I, Photographer: Museum Shooter

Robert Hasimoto documents the art institute of Chicago.

march11iphotog

march11iphotog

Robert Hasimoto, 58, is a senior photographer at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Nancy Behall

What does your job entail?
Photographing paintings and three-dimensional objects in the museum’s collection. In the studio, we have an easel set up for paintings of every type and size, and other two-dimensional work. The three-dimensional objects range from tiny, ancient artifacts to large sculptures and pieces of furniture.

You’ve shot everything there?
Yes. Every major piece needs to be photographed, not just for archival purposes, but for publications.

What’s the process?
We get requests for some pieces, and we have ongoing exhibitions and publication schedules, which are done as projects—I’m working on Russian posters now. It’s unusual for me to spend more than 15 minutes setting up an object, but I spend a lot of time in Photoshop. I’ll clean up the background, adjust the perspective.

So it’s like a commercial studio?
In many ways, but we have to be much more sensitive to the objects—we aren’t looking to enhance them. With a painting, it has to be a very accurate reproduction of the colors and textures.

What gear do you use?
For the painting easel I use bare bulbs—reflectors throw a pattern that varies in color and in level along the edges. And bare bulbs bring out the the texture. If there are problems with spectral highlights, I can deal with it in Photoshop. For three-dimensional objects, I mainly use reflectors behind big diffusers, but also softboxes. I use a Phase One body primarily for three-dimensional objects; we also have a Sinar p3 view camera for paintings or for perspective control. And we have Canon DSLRs for smaller-format work, but more for publicity and portraiture.

How many of you work there?
There is another studio photographer who does all works on paper—photographs, prints, and drawings—and two others who do publicity, events, and portraiture.

What are the challenges?
These come from objects that are difficult to photograph because of their material or their subtlety of technique. Sometimes the challenges are more in reproducing the exact colors in a painting—blues are difficult to reproduce digitally.

How did you start out?
I worked in camera stores and photo labs around Chicago while I was growing up, and met a food photographer who hired me as his assistant—I learned studio lighting from him. After a few years, I decided to focus on fine-art photography and went back to school at the Art Institute, which then turned into a part-time job, then a full-time job, and now a lifetime career. I’ve been here for 26 years.

What’s your favorite piece?
I don’t think I could pick one. I’m one of probably less than 10 percent of the staff who can actually handle objects in the museum, and I’ve handled every type of piece we have, so I’ve learned to appreciate art objects of every kind. One of the best things about working here is being so close to such a major art collection—it’s the second largest in the country, and we have the finest examples of every type of artwork imaginable. Almost daily, something will come into the studio that’s amazing.

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Lambert Sigisbert Adam (French, 1700-1759),_ Bust of Amphitrite_, c. 1725, Terracotta, 24 in. (62 cm), Restricted gift of Mrs. Harold T. Martin, 1982.1380, E15450, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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Louis H. Sullivan (American, 1856-1924),_ Schlesinger and Mayer Store: Circular Medallion from a First Floor Elevator Grille_, 1903-04, Bronze plated cast iron, Diameter: 56 cm (23 5/8 in.), Restricted gift of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, 1971.450, E18300, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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Japan, Seated Bodhisattva, c. 775, Wood core, dry lacquer, traces of gold leaf, 61 x 43.2 x 32.3 cm (24 x 17 x 12 3/4 in.), Kate S. Buckingham Endowment, 1962.356, E25286, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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Early Classic Remojadas Southern Veracruz, Gulf Coast, Mexico,_ Figure of a Seated Chieftain_, A.D. 300/600, Terracotta, 78.7 x 75 cm (31 x 29.5 in.), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Dittmer; Major Acquisitions Centennial Endowment, 1995.429, E33393, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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Attributed to Obembe Alaiye (active late 19th/early 20th century) or Agbonbiofe (died 1945) Yoruba Efon-Alaye, Ekiti region, Nigeria,_ Female Figure with Rooster Offering Bowl (Olumeye)_, Late 19th/early 20th century, Wood, pigment, glass beads, and thread, 40.1 x 31.1 x 22.8 cm (16 x 12 1/4 x 9 in.), Ada Turnbull Hertle Fund, 1977.493, E33681, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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Asante Ghana, Royal Chair (Asipim), Late 19th/early 20th century, Wood, brass, and leather, 66.3 x 37.4 x 47 cm (26 1/8 x 14 3/4 x 18 1/2 in.), Gift of Marshall Field, 1998.158, E35944, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917),_ Adam_, modeled c. 1881, Bronze, dark brown patina, 198.1 x 73.7 cm (78 x 29 in.); base: 76.2 x 73.7 cm (30 x 29 in.), Gift of Robert Allerton, 1924.4, E37751, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669)_ Old Man with a Gold Chain_, 1631, Oil on panel, 32 3/4 x 29 3/4 in. (83.1 x 75.7 cm), Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Kimball Collection, 1922.4467, G03019, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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United States, Indiana,_ Bedcover_, 1880's, Wool, cotton, silk and wild silk, plain, twill, float and plain weave derived float weaves; some with supplementary pile warps forming cut velvet, some with supplementary patterning warps; and some self-patterned by main warp and ground weft floats; some fulled; some embroidered with silk in satin stitches; pieced; back with cotton, plain weave; roller printed; quilting knots, 232.4 x 197.6 cm (91 1/2 x 77 3/4 in.), Gift of Margaret I. McCurry, 2003.377, G21002, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) (Spanish, 1541-1614), The Feast in the House of Simon, 1608/14, Oil on canvas, 56 7/16 x 39 1/2 in. (143.3 x 100.4 cm), Gift of Joseph Winterbotham, 1949.397, G24798, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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Francesco Durantino (Italian, active 1543-1553),_ Wine Cistern_, 1553, Tin-glazed earthenware (maiolica), 53.3 x 26.7 cm (21 x 10 1/2 in.), Mary Waller Langhorne Endowment, 1966.395, G30589, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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Baga Guinea,_ Headdress (Nimba, D'mba, or Yamban)_, Mid-19th/early 20th century, Wood and metal tacks, 119.4 x 33 x 59.1 cm (47 x 13 x 23 1/4 in.), W. G. Field Fund, Inc. and Edward E. Ayer Endowment in memory of Charles L. Hutchinson, 1957.160, G32265, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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Gifford Beal (American, 1879-1956),_ The Puff of Smoke_, 1912, Oil on canvas, 92.1 x 122.6 cm (36 1/4 x 48 1/4 in.), Friends of American Art Collection, 1912.1802, G33148, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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Regiomontanus, Johannes (Italian, 1436-1476),_ Calendarium_, 1476, Woodcut and letterpress in black and red, hand-colored with brush and watercolor, pen and ink, with metal and string elements, on cream and tan laid papers, in original full alum-tawed pigskin over beveled wooden boards, sewn on raised thongs, blind tooled ‘all-over’ with small tools in an H-frame layout, with two brass hook-clasp fastenings, and hand-sewn headbands, 29.5 x 22 cm; 29.5 cm tall in mount, Gift in memory of Mrs. Emil Eitel from Mr. Emil Eitel, 1948.343, G33660, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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Northern Italian, Milan, Half Armor for Foot Tourney at the Barriers, 1575/80, Steel with gilding, brass, leather, velvet weave, lace, H. 96.5 cm (38 in.) Weight: 38 lb. 13 oz., George F. Harding Collection, 1982.2172a-o, G35035, image © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago

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