Photographing the Soane

Photographer Lewis Bush talks about his involvement with the Museum, documenting the buildings, collections and staff.

My name is Lewis Bush and I’m a photographer and writer. I originally trained as a historian before turning to photography, specialising mainly in documenting objects, art works and spaces for museums, galleries and artists. I’ve known and visited the Soane Museum for most of my life but in 2009 I decided I wanted to try and shoot a small personal project at the Museum.  The Museum places a big emphasis on archiving material and with this in mind I thought it would be interesting to make a small photographic record of the Museum staff as they were in 2009. My hope was that this could go into the archive for future warders and curators to be able to look back at some of their predecessors and for these photographs to give them a more tangible sense of the long line of people who have helped to preserve the Museum over the last 176 years.

Portrait of Paul Davis, Museum warder, alongside the sarcophagus, by Lewis Bush

Portrait of Paul Davis, Museum warder, alongside the sarcophagus.  Photo: Lewis Bush

I was aware that each member of staff had their own favourite place in the Museum and so I asked each participant to choose a location, and as far as lighting and other issues allowed, that is where they were photographed. In the end I produced portraits of nearly thirty members of staff in almost as many different locations around the museum.
Partly on the back of this project, and after a positive response to other photographs I have taken, I was asked to tender for the task of documenting the Opening up the Soane (OUTS) restoration project. I’ve been photographing this work for two years now, and it’s one of most interesting jobs I’ve had. The subject matter can range drastically, from taking large scale architectural photographs of work in progress to accurately recording easily overlooked but important details that have been revealed in the course of conservation and construction.

Photograph of the Raingo astronomical clock in the Library Dining Room of the Museum, by Lewis Bush

Photograph of the Raingo astronomical clock in the Library Dining Room of the Museum.  Photo: Lewis Bush

Photographing OUTS has predominantly involved working on the various construction sites documenting work in progress and recording significant finds. It has also involved work with the conservation department, documenting restoration work, and occasionally making short photo films highlighting some of the more complicated techniques used in the department to restore or conserve objects. I also carry out photography work for other departments around the Museum, such as in educational workshops or for fundraising events, which has given me an interesting insight into many different aspects of the Museum’s work. 

The Library Dining Room table laid out for a corporate dinner, by Lewis Bush

The Library-Dining Room table laid out for a dinner.  For more details on how to hire the Museum, please visit our Venue Hire site.  Photo: Lewis Bush

Part of the fun of doing this job is that I don’t always know what exactly I might be asked to photograph! Most importantly though, it’s amazing to have been given this opportunity to work in such a unique place, where a feeling of history and purpose is embedded into every object and surface. Above all Soane’s incredible sense of light and space continually makes the Museum a challenging and rewarding place to try and capture in a photograph.

Many of Lewis Bush’s photographs have been used throughout this website including our Media Centre for press use and also for our Annual Review and The SOANE Magazine.  You can see more of Lewis’ work on his website:

Posted on 04 September 2013 in People
Return to main menu ›