Exercise 5.1

Brief: Produce a series of still life pictures that show traces of life without using people.

 I have responded to this brief in two different ways.

  1. The journey of an egg.
  2. The death of flowers

The journey of an egg was inspired by the random finding of an egg in my egg box that still had a feather attached. This set me to thinking about what happens to eggs and how they can be used. Eggs can either hatch, produce chickens and then more eggs (the circle of life) or, more frequently they are eaten. I make a lot of scrambled eggs so decided to make a series of images visualising this. I started to try to make a vernacular series using my camera phone but ran into some practical problems – it is difficult to cook and use a phone safely at the same time and I had limited space and could not get far enough away to get good images. So, I decided to make a more formal series with my camera set up on a tripod. I like the eventual effect but still feel that the subject matter might have fitted better with a snapshot ethos, possibly including some more distance shots of the kitchen as well.

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The death of flowers is a very traditional series of still life inspired by both the Dutch masters and the works of Tom Brill, Penny Klepuszewka and Sam Taylor-Wood that I looked at in my research. I have been thinking about change and death a great deal recently. I have always been interested in the way flowers change as they die, some just drop their petals, some dry up and survive long-term, others develop mould. I felt that this series was best matched to a formal approach. The flowers were placed in a plain (old) glass vase against a black background. I took them with a slow exposure, I had considered flash, but did not want the shadows that flash would produce. Once taken I adjusted the effect in Photoshop to deepen the black. This had the secondary effect of increasing the apparent vibrancy of the colours. I am aware that this is an often-done series but found it interesting to do. I also tried making images against an antique screen, but this gave a rather confusing effect. I plan to extend the series by starting with some flowers in bud, then taking images using the same set up every day until they totally collapse or dry up and stop changing.

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Learning points:

  • Different approaches are more suited to different subjects
  • Consider taking images around the main theme to extend the story
  • Think about being playful, what would be fun for the viewer to see?
  • Think about your setup – I had to redo all the flower images as creases in the cloth showed.
  • Still life takes time – ideally the flower series could be extended over several weeks.

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