In IAP part 5, absence and signs of life, there are ‘many examples of photography that avoid the use of the human figure in order to communicate truths and stories about humanity.’ One particular aspect that interested me for further research was that of still life: it is not an area that currently features in my practice (as my working life is mostly desk-bound, I’m keen to be outside when I can); I’m interested in exploring the concept of everyday objects being transformed into something different through the medium of photography, including the use of symbolism, visual pun and metaphor; and I’d like to explore the lighting techniques for table-top still life photography, both in their own right and as techniques that can be translated into larger scale.
The National Media Museum’s video, What does it mean? Symbolism in Still Life Photography, touches on the origins on still life in painting and its dual purpose of allowing the practice of technique on things that do not move or need any particular love and attention (Don McCullin (National Media Museum) also discusses this practicality), and of representing something beyond the objects themselves through symbolism and metaphor.
My earlier studies have include aspects of lighting for still life: Light Science and Magic (Hunter F, Biver S, Fuqua P, 2015) and Table Top Photography (Harnischmacher C, 2012). The blog posts (hyperlinked) provide some useful reminders and areas to revisit. One significant different to my kit is that I now have a light meter.
A call for ‘still life’ reference material on the OCA forum provided some useful suggestions. Some artist referenced follow.
Imogen Cunningham made exquisite use of lighting to photograph a wide range of subjects, both in locations she found them and in more formal tableaux.
One fellow student provided a substantial list of photographers to consider: ‘contemporary’ work coming out of the USA – Daniel Gordon, Lucas Blalock, Sara Cwynar – but also UK – Lorenzo Vitturi, Jonny Briggs. Links to websites are referenced below. Gordon’s work has the feel of collage about it – complex patterns with a mix of natural and created objects; visually disconcerting. Creative Review features Blalock’s book Making Memories, including an AR (augmented reality) app that allows the work to be viewed in 3D through a phone screen. This illustrates how Blalock treats the photograph itself as just a point of departure for his work, with post-processing being a significant part of his work. Vitturi’s own website provides a stunning visual display in itself – not just a vehicle to show photographs.
This research has given me a mind full of information to digest as I develop ‘still life’ as part of my photographic practice.
Creative Review [website]. AR comes to photography in new book by Lucas Blalock. Available from: https://www.creativereview.co.uk/ar-comes-photography-new-book-lucas-blalock/ [accessed 26.3.17]
Daniel Gordon [website]. Available from: http://www.danielgordonstudio.com [accessed 26.3.17]
Foam Museum [Youtube]. Still/Life – Contemporary Dutch Photography. Available from: https://youtu.be/tk0wborGNxs?list=PLtFVp4OpD5nZrcpUQN36YjI3GHG9z6dFL [accessed 24.3.17]
Imogen Cunningham Trust [website]. Available from: https://www.imogencunningham.com/still-life/ [accessed 26.3.17]
Jonny Briggs [website]. Available from: http://www.jonnybriggs.com [accessed 26.3.17]
Lorenzo Vitturi [website] Available from: http://www.lorenzovitturi.com [accessed 26.3.17]
National Media Museum [Youtube]. What does it mean? Symbolism in Still Life Photography. Available from: https://youtu.be/iQ_ftM0ZXy8?list=PLtFVp4OpD5nZrcpUQN36YjI3GHG9z6dFL [accessed 24.3.17]
National Media Museum [Youtube]. Don McCullin on Still Life Photography. Available from: https://youtu.be/Qvgic5q-1Zw?list=PLtFVp4OpD5nZrcpUQN36YjI3GHG9z6dFL [accessed 24.3.17]
Sara Cwynar [website]. Available from: http://saracwynar.com [accessed 26.3.17]