Adding an interactive dimension to a portrait exhibition and book


Arts & Culture

Executive Summary

Marcus Lyon is a British photographer whose works and books are held in numerous private and international collections including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Arts Council Collection of Great Britain. Working with Matt Hill of Rethink Audio, Marcus approached Calvium to create a new audio guide that would add an interactive dimension to his portrait exhibition and book, Somos Brasil (“We are Brazil”).

The Somos Brasil project is an exploration of  the diversity of Brazilian identity at the outset of the 21st century through high quality portraits, soundscapes and stories. Over a six-month period Lyon toured Brazil exploring the most diverse corners of the country with a producer and sound recordist. Together they mapped the ancestral DNA, personal stories and visual identity of over one hundred remarkable Brazilians.

Calvium worked closely with Marcus Lyon and Matt Hill to develop an immersive app that would enrich a viewer’s experience of the portraits; adding a layer of interactivity using image recognition technology.

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It was vital that the image recognition technology used in the app resulted in a smooth experience that wouldn’t obstruct the enjoyment of the work, in both exhibition and book format. Each portrait, once scanned by a viewer’s phone, would trigger an audio interview with the subject; sharing their childhood memories, dreams and aspirations for the future. This would only be a powerful addition to the gallery if the experience of using the app was elegant and seamless.  No select a number, as with traditional audio guides, or scan a QR code somewhere to the left of the artwork – it would need to be as simple as point and listen.

The Somos app was also required to be bilingual, in Brazilian Portuguese and English. This presented it’s own set of unique challenges and Matt Hill of Rethink Audio spent weeks working with translators in Rio to edit the native Portuguese and English versions.

How Calvium Helped

When Matt Hill first approached Calvium with the idea of using image recognition for the Somos Brazil project, we were initially brought in as consultants to carry out a series of technical investigations. Through this process, we evaluated a collection of available technologies and presented back our findings and recommendations, an investigation that gave our clients the confidence to move forward with our proposed solution.

This isn’t my first experience of working with Calvium - and it won’t be the last. Professional, friendly and incredibly patient, they have always responded well to our feedback and the finished app is everything we hoped it would be

Matt Hill, Project Manager on Somos Brasil, Rethink Audio Ltd


The Somos Brazil app enables viewers of Marcus Lyon’s portraits to move beyond the flat surface of the image and listen to personal stories and individual journeys of identity, adding a special touch to his work. You can experience it for yourself as the Guardian are currently featuring a number of portraits from the series. 

To learn more about Marcus Lyon and the Somos Brasil Project, watch Marcus’  TEDx Talk: Is your identity given or created?

To experience the whole project, you’ll need to visit the exhibition or get your hands on the book, both launching in Autumn 2016.


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