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The Conservator

I have alluded to this assignment in two prior posts, The End of the Affair and A Peek Behind the Curtain. In early September I had the opportunity to photograph George Bisacca, Paintings Conservator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

George is one of an extremely small group of specialists worldwide who have the experience and cross-disciplinary skills to tackle the restoration of artworks dating back to the 15th-century. Most specifically, panel paintings (paintings on wood.)

While the images here depict one of the traditional restoration studios at the Met, it would be just as likely for George to use X-rays, CT scans, and molecular spectroscopy in his work.

George Bisacca, Paintings Conservator, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, NY. September, 2012. Click images to enlarge.
George Bisacca, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, NY.
George Bisacca at work, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, NY.
Conservator’s tools, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, NY.
George Bisacca at work, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, NY.
George Bisacca at work, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, NY.

Assignment Notes:

The was my first assignment with the Canon 1D X. I’ll just blurt it out, the 1D X has a mojo that the 1Ds Mark III and 5D Mark III didn’t and don’t have. I assume it has something to do with the chip. Maybe it is its wider dynamic range, maybe it hits a sweet spot in resolution versus noise? I’m not sure… but the 1D X simply draws the image differently and better than any of the Canon cameras I have shot with previously (all of the 1Ds models and the 5D Mark III.)

Because of the nature of the assignment, a studio filled with artwork valued between very expensive and priceless, I could not bring traditional strobes, not even battery powered ones. Heavier lights, cables, and larger light modifiers were a no-no. George let me know that some of their on site lights were LED so I was able to bring my own LED Litepanels, 1x1s and Sola ENGs, which were a perfect fit. Small footprint, no cables, natural feel when matched to the ambient light.


Middlebury Magazine: Restoration Hardware.

Middlebury Magazine: Restoration Hardware: Inside the Studio.

George on art, details, and intimacy (Metropolitan Museum of Art.)

George in the Wall Street Journal.

George in the New Yorker.

George in the Gothamist.


  1. Hi Jon, great assignment to try your new camera out on. Very pleasing images with a great punchy natural colour. I particularly like the detailed close ups.

    Are the photos for the museum?

    Have you you done any filming with the 1D X?

    Not working as a photographer I couldn’t justify buying this camera or even a 5D MK111, but I’d love to try one out for day to see what I could come up with.

  2. Thanks Mark. The photos were for a college alumni magazine.

    I haven’t done any filming with the 1D X yet… not had the chance. Been very busy with filming but it’s all been with the C300.

    I’m looking forward to testing the 1D X for video. Like I mentioned above, it’s clear from the get-go that it sees the world differently.

    One interesting note -> on an all-day video shoot today with the C300 someone said, “Wow, there’s no hiding that.” That being the C300 + ext. monitor. I got a similar reaction this past summer when I shot the Blue Moon, Blue Maine video. People were pointing at the camera,”hey, look at that,” even though it was in stripped down mode (no monitor, no tripod or monopod, just handheld.) To the general public the C300 is a big, different camera, and one which calls attention to itself.

    I suspect that when out in public one can get away with a lot more with the 1D X (as was the case with the 5D and the 1DM4.)

  3. Hi Jon, really great photos, very clear and crispy. Wich ISO do you use ?Do you use NR ? Best wishes from Germany and all the best for 2013 !

  4. Thanks Thomas.

    ISO varied between 125 & 250, so nothing very high. No noise reduction. Raw files were processed in Aperture.

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