GLS #2 – All the World’s a Still Life Stage


Onions crop GR fin webImages Copyright symbol Debra Grant 2015

I love still life. I really do. A few years ago I studied for a Humanities degree with the Open University…just for fun. I studied History of Art and learned that fine art has a hierarchy of genres. Still life is considered the lowliest genre but there’s something about it which appeals to me over enormous religious and historical statement pieces and magnificent landscapes. It’s the intimacy of it; the careful arrangement of objects which together form a narrative. Why were they chosen? Why were they placed just so? Where is the light coming from? What shadows does it cast and what do they add to the image?

Photography is all about light; its direction, spread, colour and intensity. When I first began to study photography seriously I began to look at every light source around me, evaluating what effect it was having on the scene in front of me. I took to looking at objects I had to hand and wondering how I would arrange and shoot them right at that moment, to give the most artful or elegant result. I took thousands of ‘pretend’ photos with my mind, then I had a lightbulb moment (if you pardon the expression). Why was I taking imaginary still life photos when I could take real ones!? DUH! Ok I didn’t always have the time or space to set up a deliberate still life shoot complete with tripod and DSLR, but I could shoot the ‘accidental’ still lifes I came across with my little Canon G9 very easily. So that’s what I did. And each time I looked at the results and evaluated how successful they were as still life shots. In doing so I learned a lot about light. I still do this, with the G16 I bought myself a year or so ago and I still get a lot of pleasure from it.

When you start looking still life shots are everywhere. And this brings me to my Guilty Little Secret (GLS)  number 2. I’ve been known to surreptitiously photograph someone’s fruit bowl or vase; their hat casually discarded on a chair; their weird cow ornament brought back from Spain. I tend to do it surreptitiously because well…normal people think it’s a bit odd when you ask to photograph their weird cow ornament…we’re back to the ‘batshit crazy’ assessment of GLS#1.

So tonight I was preparing supper and I suddenly saw the light. For just a moment it was lovely, the still life stage was set, and I had my camera to hand.