Sacred portraits: Photographer makes images for JSP project
C. Andersen says his career photographing Hollywood stars for movie
posters and musicians for album covers pales in comparison to the
portraiture project he is undertaking now.Andersen now takes the most important historical documents in the
archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and makes
"portraits" of them for the volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
__IMAGE1__Original manuscripts of revelations now in the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith's pocket diary and other journals,
church ledgers, the printer's manuscript for the Book of Mormon are
all part of Andersen's work. "I'm kind of an eyewitness to history, in
a way," he said of the time he spends with these historical treasures.
The first two volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers Project have been
published so far. The church expects it will take 15 years and a total
of 30 printed volumes to complete the project.
A convergence of the right technology and artistry "came together at
the moment we needed it" to make the photographic images true portraits
and "not just Xerox copies."
On the technology side, the latest 39-megapixel Hasselblad H3DII-39
multishot camera, sophisticated software and computers capable of
working with 288-megabyte raw capture files allow Andersen to make
images so sharp and detailed that individual fibers in the paper are
crisply visible. On the artistic side, the lighting is so carefully
designed that each of those fibers has subtle light-and-shadow detail.
Viewing the overall photograph looks as much as possible like viewing
the original document.
Researchers can examine the documents in greater detail, enlarging
the photographs on a computer screen, than they could by holding the
original and examining it with a magnifying loupe, Andersen said.
About 650 of the images Andersen has captured so far are in the
"Revelations and Translations: Manuscript Revelation Books" oversized
volume of the Joseph Smith Papers Project released Sept. 22. This
volume is specifically referred to as a "Facsimile Edition" because of
the full-color, full-page photographs. With high-quality images of rare
documents written in Joseph Smith's hand now in print, "I don't have to
tell you who Joseph Smith is. You look at this, and you'll know."
the handwritten revelations for yourself is a powerful spiritual
witness," said Elder Paul K. Sybrowsky, assistant executive director of
the Church History Department. "It brings you closer to the Prophet
Joseph and to these foundational scriptural texts."Andersen does his work in an expansive photo studio deep in the
bowels of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake
City. "There is always somebody from (the Church History) department
with them at all times," Andersen said of the documents he is working
with. "They don't ever just lock the door and leave them behind to go
Robin Jensen is among the core members of the Joseph Smith Papers
Project team who have worked with Andersen, helping position the aging
and fragile books for the camera.
"As someone who obsesses over the slightest features in manuscripts
and their transcriptions, I appreciate Welden's meticulous attention to
detail," said Jensen, an editor of the facsimile edition just released.
"He is a perfect fit within the project, exemplifying the care with
which the Joseph Smith Papers (team) devotes to transcription and
The high-resolution photographs have "both an archival purpose and a
scholarly or investigative purpose," said Ronald K. Esplin, the Joseph
Smith Papers Project's managing editor.
"Shooting at extremely high resolution allows one to see things that
are not visible to the naked eye and to capture detail for archival
purposes that may not be visible even to the camera in another 50
years," Esplin said. "Because the documents will never be more legible
than they are now, it is important that for the most significant
documents we capture and preserve all the data, all the detail, that is
technically feasible to capture."
Photographs of the documents meet the project's current objective of
providing high-quality images for the printed volumes. Just how the
church will make the images available online or through other
electronic delivery is still a work in process, said Church History
spokesman Patrick Dunshee.
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