St Albans photographer creates virtual tour of Westminster Abbey: Google Street View

PUBLISHED: 12:00 22 July 2016

A virtual tour of Wesminster Abbey with pictures taken by St Albans based photographer Jo Hailey.

A virtual tour of Wesminster Abbey with pictures taken by St Albans based photographer Jo Hailey.

Archant

A Google-accredited St Albans photographer has helped give historic Westminster Abbey its first ever ‘digital close-up’ after putting the church on a virtual tour map.

A virtual tour of Wesminster Abbey with pictures taken by St Albans based photographer Jo Hailey.A virtual tour of Wesminster Abbey with pictures taken by St Albans based photographer Jo Hailey.

In doing so, Jo Hailey, of Sandridge, has helped open the doors of one of the world’s greatest churches - the Coronation church since 1066 - to visitors around the globe.

While it saves some people the hassle of physically travelling to Westminster Abbey in London, or paying the £20 adult entry fee, the digital close-up is also apparently prompting others to visit the historic landmark for the first time because they were previously unaware of what was inside it.

Jo, managing director of Striking Places, a photographic company specialising in 360 virtual tours, was approached by the famous monument’s team and selected to provide the virtual tour after giving a successful pitch.

She completed seven shoots of the whole building, including the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, and the Cosmati pavement.

A virtual tour of Wesminster Abbey with pictures taken by St Albans based photographer Jo Hailey.A virtual tour of Wesminster Abbey with pictures taken by St Albans based photographer Jo Hailey.

A unique pavement in front of the High Altar, which was laid down by workmen from Rome in 1268 by order of Henry III, Jo had to carefully “walk in stockinged feet” across it.

She said: “I was over the moon to be approached by the Abbey because it is such a prestigious building, steeped in so much history. I had to shoot around the tomb of Elizabeth I for example.”

The process took six months with early starts as photography shoots are only held between 7-9.30am on Thursdays before the Abbey opens.

Although Jo has a degree in accountancy and hasrun businesses in the past, she has had an interest in photography from a young age.

A virtual tour of Wesminster Abbey with pictures taken by St Albans based photographer Jo Hailey.A virtual tour of Wesminster Abbey with pictures taken by St Albans based photographer Jo Hailey.

After battling three types of cancer from the age of 15 into her late 30s, she only became a Google photographer at the beginning of 2012 – one of the few Google accredited photographers in the UK - and believes she has found her niche.

Jo said that Striking Places was, “thrilled to work with the education team at Westminster Abbey on this prestigious project.

“We are proud to have enabled people all over the globe to get right up close to, for example, the Coronation High Altar, and the shrine of Edward the Confessor.”

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Dr John Hall, said the church had been ‘pondering’ how to extend to young people and those who were not able to visit the Abbey, “something of the experience available for our many visitors”.

Jo Hailey, St Albans photographerJo Hailey, St Albans photographer

He said that the project had allowed people to access the church via Google Street View and “see and learn so much more than previously”.

• The virtual tour is available on the Abbey’s website www.westminster-abbey.org/visit-us/virtual-tour


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