Brief:- Part Four encourages you to use the genre of still life as a laboratory for visual experimentation. Digital imagery offers photographers immense control over the image, making it easy to layer, juxtapose and combine different pictures or parts of pictures.
In Part Four, you’ll learn how to:
- arrange everyday objects to create a ‘scene’
- use a range of methods for combining images
- apply some processes and techniques
- emulate key visual qualities in other photographers’ work.
Everyday life throws up many unlikely juxtapositions and symbols. Look up Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s Quiet Afternoon series and have a look at their video ‘The Way Things Go’ on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXrRC3pfLnE
The Way Things Go
“The Way Things Go” is a video rather than photography and it took me a while to understand how the moving image is related to still life. The scene is similar to Domino Rally that I has as a child. You stand the domino’s up one in front of the other, put them on ramps, stairs and all kinds of other structures that come with the kit, and then knock the first one down and watch the chain reaction. Fischli and Weiss’s scene is constructed with everyday objects, placed in such away, that an element becomes a catalyst for change with the next. Each element on its own is still life, but as a single object on the floor, would hold no interest. However, the movement and progress running through the scene is what turns this series of still life into a moving image. The juxtaposition is based upon how the actions of one object/group of objects affects the following. It’s very cleverly put together, not as good as the one I’ve scene on a TV advert (I can’t remember which one), and nowhere near as good as the one which Sesame Street produced for the number 3 many many years ago. I watched that show for years afterwards hoping to see it again, but sadly I never did.
What this tells me as that still life is not necessarily about “Sunflowers” (what actually makes that special???), nor social media plates of food, catalogue of equipment/products nor artifacts.
In this sense it is about relationship, connection, creating something new out of a variety of individual elements. I must say that just from watching that video I feel more positive about this part of the course. I used to think the term “making photography” was pretentious BS to give people the feeling of superiority, but it’s not. Anyone can take a photo of an object (not anyone can paint a vase of sunflowers, suddenly I’m humbled by Van Goch, but only for his talent, I still don’t like the painting). Creating a photograph that challenges perception and provides alternate visual connections is making photography. Anyone could do it, but only genuinely creative photographers will.
This series includes video and still photography, and on the whole I prefer the videos. The stills are quite messy and mostly lack and finesse, whereas the same objects as moving, dynamic pieces of a larger piece of work is quite amazing. The objects are positioned deliberately, are very finely balanced and leave me wondering how they managed to achieve this. Especially as they were connected to a series of tricks and movement as in the YouTube video above.I don’t believe there is anything symbolic about the juxtapositions of the cleverly arranged subjects. The alternate use of every day equipment/utensils/furniture is good to see, and recycling would be more fun if we were all to give this a try.
My favourite photo from Quiet Afternoon is
This photo is clean and the shoes are neat and tidy, with a supportive/neutral background. The geometry is appealing as is the one silver shoe. It creates a focal point that keeps my eye on the shoes.
I looked at other series produced by Faschli and Weiss and found Flowers, Mushrooms to be fun, and relaxing to view. OCA photography student Sarah Andrews is producing similar but higher quality layers than Fischli and Weiss, and she pulled her learning and practice together for Assignment 5. Sarah’s photography can be seen here.
Here is an example from Fischli and Weiss
Figure 1 Fischli, P and Weiss, D; 1984; Quiet Afternoon [C-Print]; AT: https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/fischli-weiss/fischli-weiss-room-guide-room-1/fischli-weiss-1 (accessed on 02/09/2018)
Figure 2 Fischli, P and Weiss, D; 1997/1998; Flowers, Mushrooms [C-Print]; AT: https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/fischli-weiss/fischli-weiss-room-guide-room-1/fischli-weiss-8 (accessed on 02/09/2018)