Brief:- Traditional still life presents a small-scale space to explore constructive photography. But still life doesn’t have to be bowls of fruit and vases of flowers. You can place any object or combination of objects in any setting. And both can be constructed. It may be useful to think of still life as having two key elements – object(s) and setting – and go wherever your imagination takes you with them. Setting/background Choose a space that you can work with over time. You don’t need the traditional wall and table yet, just a cleared space. What does your space present you with? A wall? A floor? A corner? Put your camera on a tripod and aim it at this empty space. Now add to this space one large flat object. It could be a sheet, a painting turned back to front, an up-turned table or a large piece of paper stuck to the wall. Don’t place anything in the middle of space to act as an ‘object’ but rather compose your setting with surfaces, colours and textures. Have a look in the viewfinder. Note every element in the frame: the way surfaces create angles, lines, shapes and planes the way planes create a dimensional ‘space’ the effect of different lighting on this setting. Take a photo. This should be an entirely artificial, constructed image that could even ‘defy gravity’. Objects Now choose a simple object and carefully place it into this composition. Avoid clichéd objects. Take a photo, then remove the object. Replace it with another object, something very different. Place this object in such a way that it’s not emphasised. (Did your first photo emphasise the object?) Take a photo. Now fill the space with a lot of different things (mattresses, furninture, crockery, books, plants, anything handy) and try to create an entirely constructed ‘environment’. It may be very messy, but it should depict a ‘place’ with an identity that only exists inside the frame of your camera.
I shall start with my favourite photo first.
I had planned to use my ceiling as the space, and hang objects from it with thread, and something I intend to try in the future. I don’t have the energy to attempt complicated right now, and I need to make some progress, so I have returned to earth.
The brief is self explanatory, so these photos demonstrate the progress through building a scene, and make use of gels with a speedlight to see how colour effects appearance and mood.
The process has shown me that it is possible to create a “set” as it would be called on stage or in film, and that a set is limited to our imagination. One of the main points of the exercise is to help us to see that any objects can be used as setting or object for still life photography. The learning point that I will be taking from this exercise is to think outside of the box. Laura Lentisky’s use of magazine photos which she has cut out, and my initial idea of using are alternate objects and settings. Perhaps it’s about going with the flow, trying something and allowing it to succeed or fail.
Having been put off of still life, based upon what I had learned at seen at school, I’m surprised to have made use of flowers and a vase for my more creative exploration. They were, they were available. But hey – I got to play, create, explore and make photos, and right now that’s just what I need.
Making use of a speedlight is new to me, and it will take a while to get used to. I haven’t found it to be especially useful here, although I quite like the second-last photo above. The directional lighting, which I had covered with a gel, has created the drama that I had hoped for. The way that coloured light impacts upon a scene and objects within it is quite obvious from the above photos. However, I’m still drawn to the red tinged photo above.