Infrared at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a large country estate located near Wakefield, a mile from the M1 motorway, which is dedicated to displaying sculpture and has both outdoor and indoor displays. I visited in June 2013.

I decided in advance to concentrate on black and white film, after looking at the images by other photographers available online – because colour didn’t seem to add much to the images, shape and texture being the important elements. I took my Mamiya RZ67 loaded with Tri-X, my Holga WPC pinhole camera, and a Yashicamat 124G with infrared film.  The infrared images were the most successful; the first three here were taken with Rollei IR 400 film (rated at ISO 6 to allow for the light blocked by the Hoya R72 filter) and the last two on Ilford SFX 200 (rated at ISO 3).

The subject of my first photograph is not a sculpture (as far as I know!) but merely a gate. I liked the crossing bars and oval shape.

Yashicamat 124G, Rollei IR400 film

Below is “Midi Marker” by James Capper.

2013-7-5, Yashicamat, Rollei IR400, Rodinal stand, YSP, 007

Capper’s work includes making working machines, but machines which are classed as sculptures. I’m not sure what the intended purpose of this section of machinery would be, but I can tell you that is is bright orange and certainly would look more at home on a building site than by a lake. I thought that photographing the object in infrared highlighted the incongruity of shape and texture whilst avoiding the clashing bright orange….

Next up is the work “Seventy-One Steps” by David Nash, described as “seventy one huge oak steps, carefully charred and oiled to a rich black, follow the lie of the land on the hill. The steps are completed by thirty tons of coal embedded between the steps to create a stunning installation that will erode and change over time.”

2013-7-5, Yashicamat 124G, SFX200,  Fotospeed FD10 1+10 12mins, Yorkshire Sculpture Park,  002

I did like “Seventy-One Steps”, but in the same way as I might like a set of steps through woods if they were created by the works department of the local council, instead of by a renowned artist. I reflected that an object counts as art if created by someone who calls themselves an artist. A set of steps created to convey pedestrians up a bank is considered merely a functional object when made by council workers.

For me, the highlight of the sculptures in the park was “The Family of Man” by Barbara Hepworth. There are nine pieces of bronze in this set, spread out on a wooded hillside, loosely resembling human figures of all sizes.

The Family of Man by Barbara Hepworth
The Family of Man by Barbara Hepworth

The human element made this work easier to relate to, in my mind, than many of the other works on show.

The Family of Man by Barbara Hepworth

There are also some Henry Moore sculptures which may also appeal to those who enjoy Barbara Hepworth’s work – but by the time I reached them the sun was too strong for a good image and I didn’t photograph them.


  1. I really like your choice of infra-red in this series, Kevin; a very good choice as it provides a set of images distinctly unlike those I’ve seen before from here.

    I partially share your disquiet on the steps too, though I’d rather turn it around and say that many nominally mundane objects or facilities can be attractive / beautiful / interesting, or their decay fascinating even though they weren’t intended as ‘art’ when created, but as functional things. In other words: if an artist thinks that decaying steps are a worthy subject for art, it’s fine by me for them to create such steps with that intent; in reverse, if people perceiving ‘ordinary’ steps want to see them as unintentionally artistic, that’s also fine. I do the latter a lot! Perhaps, by creating an artwork which would normally be considered mundane, an artist can draw attention to the interest / beauty of those mundane things and encourage people to see those characteristics in other nominally mundane objects around them?


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