Ardon Bar Hama
Leaf Aptus-II 10

“Not only is that back fast but it is giving me double the resolution. The reason I do very much enjoy the Leaf Aptus-II 10 is that I don’t have to zoom in so much. Even when I crop I have so much resolution that everything can be done faster."

Ardon Bar Hama

Photographer Ardon Bar Hama is known for photographing the world’s most treasured objects in libraries, museums, archives, private collections and institutions. His clients range from private collectors to the Vatican. Objects include archaeological artifacts, sculptures, and manuscripts - of inestimable religious and cultural value.

“It’s all about the democratization of knowledge - so everyone can share the treasures – no longer just the scholars. And this process of digitizing material does not discourage people from wanting to visit these institutions or collections, because people still want to see the original.

Ardon was a pioneer in using the “one shot” method of capturing images of manuscripts with a digital camera. Until then, the process was to use Scanning back cameras
which required cold light, long exposure times, very steady copy stands, and the need to position and reposition precious materials - a very slow process.

“At that time, people were able to produce from five to twenty images a day,” Ardon said. “I came up with the idea of using a camera that was being used mostly with fashion photographers. Scanning to get high-resolution files might take 50 minutes, but with my back it’s one second, and it’s there. I started with the Leaf 22 MP digital back, then the Leaf 33 MP digital back and now the Leaf Aptus-II 10, 56 MP back. Slowly it’s changing. I still see people scanning, but people now understand that digital photography is the way to do it.
Ardon’s first project was six years ago when he was hired by the Jerusalem museum to digitize the Aleppo Codex, the oldest existing Hebrew Bible from the year 920.

“I came in and I said that this had to be done with Leaf technology. Next, I started work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and that eventually brought me to the Vatican where I met the Pope, shook his hand and went down into the vault for three days. This was in 2005, and I was using a prototype of the Aptus 75 – the first 33 MP camera. I shot the most important Christian Bible (the Codex Vaticanos), which consisted of 1,500 leaves of parchment written in Greek for the Vatican."

“That project led to an opportunity with Juilliard School of Music. The donor
Bruce Kovner who gave Juilliard this priceless collection - including manuscripts by Mozart and Beethoven in their own handwriting - said, ‘you did Dead Sea scrolls. So I want you to do this and I want everything on the web.'”

Beethoven - An autographed draft - part of the first movement of the String Quartet in E flat Op. 127, comprising some 84 bars. [Courtesy Juilliard Manuscript Collection]

My work for Juilliard led to this new job for the New York Philharmonic. They’re concentrating on the work of Leonard Berstein and other musicians like Mahler - they’re talking about digitizing 1.3 million pages over the next three years, so I came up with a workflow for the project.

“Not only is that back fast but it is giving me double the resolution. The reason I do very much enjoy the Leaf Aptus-II 10 is that I don’t have to zoom in so much. Even when I crop I have so much resolution that everything can be done faster. I can shoot a full spread for the same resolution I could shoot one page with the Aptus 75."

“People are thinking, it is going to be so complicated. But my whole studio goes in a suitcase. I can set it up any place. The big advantage is speed. Today I shoot as many as 2,000 images in a day. For the New York Philharmonic I recently shot 110,000 images over three months. I’m also using Flash with UV protected tubes which do not harm the objects. I use two light sources. I used to work with Hasselblad, but now I work with Alpa camera and Leaf back to the Mac and then do post production."

“Post production becomes much more efficient because of the way I shoot, I know how I’m going to post produce it so I can be much more productive when I shoot. For example, I know whether I need to zoom in or not, whether to shoot a spread or not, how to do the lighting, Sometimes I do multiple images and then I superimpose them; sometimes I do stitching. Knowing how the post production is going to happen helps me be more efficient when I shoot in knowing how to use the technologies to get higher quality images at the end.”

“It’s a matter of understanding how to work with the technology,” he says. “I am constantly moving forward with the technology. If you have the tools, it’s doable. Now everyone can see the world’s greatest things digitized by Leaf.”

About Ardon Bar Hama

Ardon Bar Hama has established his reputation as a pre-eminent photographer of the world’s great archaeological, religious and cultural objects including precious documents and archives. He credits the start of his digitization career to the vision of cultural entrepreneur George Blumenthal, whose experiences as founder and Chairman of Virgin Media (largest cable television company in the United Kingdom) helped him see that high-speed Internet access could serve as a catalyst to “democratizing” knowledge to the world.

When Ardon met George in 2002, they saw the potential to revolutionize the world of archiving rare documents through digital photography in place of scanning technologies. With a background in architectural photography, Ardon pioneered the use of medium format digital photography and other innovative methods to the archival process. His work can be seen in museums and public institutions, and private collections throughout the world.

Bar Hama not only digitized it, but he helped put the Great Isaiah Scroll online with ‘scroll-turning technology.’ His innovative approach to digitization has contributed to the preservation and sharing of a wide range of artifacts - including some of the world's most important scientific, religious, historical, and cultural treasures. Besides his online digital work, his photographs have also been collected in books.

He currently has offices in New York and Israel.

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