Sam Taylor-Wood

Speed © Sam Taylor-Wood

Sam Taylor-Wood (now Taylor-Johnson) works across photography and film both commercially and within the fine art world. She has directed Nowhere Boy (about John Lennon) and 50 Shades of Grey. Her website (Taylor-Johnson, s.d.) shows a mixture of short film clips and still images. All make use of time, time suspended or sped up. There is an arresting photograph of a dancer in mid leap, set against a languid looking female on a couch –After Van Halen. Another image shows a dancer – Speed – where a slow shutter speed has caught her clothes swirling around her and there is the well know Suspended Self Portrait series with her hanging upside down, seemingly in mid-air, no obvious supports.

She says in short video interview Brief Applause (Brief Applause: Artist Sam Taylor-Wood, 2008)  ‘I have ideas and they wouldn’t go away…. they are very photographic, very strong. A lot of my photographs take a lot of organisation and set up. Suspended self portraits are images of me bound and hung from my studio …. there was a lot of pain and constriction …. Yet when you see them…. You sense more freedom than the constriction, …. (it is) frozen in time’.

 Still Life  (Still Life, 2001) is a short film of fruit in a bowl that shows the fruit decaying over time. It is set to music by Keith Kenniff in a piece called Preservation Devine. In 4 minutes, it shows a bowl of apples, pears and cherries gradually disintegrating. They first shimmer, become surrounded by a blue glow of fungal spores and then collapse. All to the accompaniment of soothing piano music. It is surprising beautiful and relaxing to watch. In another piece A Little Death  (A Little Death, 2002) she shows the gradual collapse of a dead hare via the life of insects into the remains of bone and skin. All the while a peach sits alongside, remaining seemingly whole. This time it is set to a short piece of chamber music by Royksopp. This is equally mesmerising although more horrific – I suspect because of the awareness that this was once a living animal.

Both of these pieces are related to the painters frequently chosen objects for still life, fruit, game, death and decay, carefully posed and translated into film.  In an interview with Wendt (Wendt, 2019) Taylor-Wood says ‘A still life is still a still life, even in the transformation from painting to film. I am interested in ideas connected to mortality and the passage of time, as were the Dutch master painters’ . The films make use of time passing and alteration in states of being to tell a very carefully composed story. They talk about life and death, now and then, time and standing still. The whole world in a compressed space.


A Little Death (2002) In: A Little Death. Directed by Taylor-Wood, S. [Video] At: (Accessed 13/07/2020).

Brief Applause: Artist Sam Taylor-Wood (2008) At: (Accessed 13/07/2020).

Still Life (2001) Directed by Taylor-Wood, S. At: (Accessed 13/07/2020).

Taylor-Johnson, S. (s.d.) Homepage. At: (Accessed 13/07/2020).

Wendt, S. (2019) Breaking the Medium of Painting Down. At: (Accessed 13/07/2020).

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