The Photographers of the Unicorns

“To make a digital image of the Unicorn tapestries was one of the most difficult assignments that Bridgers had ever had. She put together a team to do it, bringing in two consultants, Scott Geffert and Howard Goldstein, and two of the Met’s photographers, Joseph Coscia, Jr., and Oi-Cheong Lee. They built a giant metal scaffolding inside the wet lab, and mounted on it a Leica digital camera, which looked down at the floor. The photographers were forbidden to touch the tapestries; Kathrin Colburn and her team laid each one down, underneath the scaffold, on a plastic sheet. Then the photographers began shooting. The camera had a narrow view; it could photograph only one three-by-three-foot section of tapestry at a time. The photographers took overlapping pictures, moving the camera on skateboard wheels on the scaffolding. Each photograph was a tile that would be used to make a complete, seamless mosaic of each tapestry.

Joe Coscia said that his experience with the Unicorn tapestries was incomparable: “It was really quiet, and I was often alone with a tapestry. I really got a sense that, for a short while, the tapestry belonged to me.” For his part, Oi-Cheong Lee felt his sense of time dissolve. “The time we spent with the tapestries was nothing—only a moment in the life of the tapestries,” he said.

from the New Yorker