Still Life Photography

Still life photography has been about since the start of photography. To start with it was experiments such William Henry Fox Talbot, who was testing the medium of photography. His work is very simple, due to the experimentation. Not all the still life images were staged, but they had a dark background to bring out the lights of the objects in frame

Other times it was a reason to learn something from the objects of interest. As the aesthetics of photography changed so did still life, from mimicking paintings to the more contemporary pieces we are used to seeing today – still life photography, much like paintings have changed over time.

One contemporary still life photographer is Sharon Core. One of her series Early American was inspired by the work from Raphaelle Peale. She looked at the structure of Peale’s paintings, she recreated the tones and lighting of the pieces. She aims to play with your mind so you believe you’re looking at paintings but in actual fact it is photographs. I like the idea the work, I think they are beautiful tones and she has achieved exactly what she wanted. It makes me wonder whether I should reference classic still life paintings in my work, to reenforce the idea of the history and origins of the work. Maybe I could look back to styles of photographs and paintings of the time of their creation. This way I can give some subtle visual clues to how the cocktails were created.


Another contemporary style still life artist is Sam Taylor-Johnson (also known as Taylor-Wood) she is probably most famous for her films such as Nowhere Boy and 50 Shades of Grey. She has created two moving image pieces that start out as beautiful still life images that refer back to the still life painters of the 1700s but as the film continues you watch the objects decay. This then referring back to memento mori. In her first video Still Life it contains a biro – obviously through the video the pen remains untouched and exactly as the fruit withers away. This hits the viewer hard with the notion of the things that we create almost having immortality when we ourselves don’t. Her second video A Little Death has a hare in the frame instead of a bowl of fruit. This video – although having a similar message – is very different to a Still Life. We see the hare, something we known once to have had life suddenly coming back to life as it decays. The movement of the bacteria and flies and the carcass is almost savage. Strangely the hare remains somewhat in the same position the whole time.

I like the use of video and almost seeing the ‘behind the scenes’ to a still life. It is a clear and visual message about life and death. I’m not sure moving image would work with my project. I feel like cocktails as the drink are there to be savoured and this should be mirrored in my work.


Another piece of work that refers back to previous still life paintings is the work by the Australian artist Robyn Stacey. Her series Tall Tales and True looks at three historic spaces owned by New South Wales, Australia’s government. She used the spaces and objects to tell the history through still life photography. This enables the viewer to get a sense of what it was like through a fictional reality. I like that this work is based on history but not the exact versions of events, which is what I am aiming to do. Her interpretation is not literal yet it gives an understanding of history. What I feel I need to do is research more in depth about the time each of the cocktails I want to photograph so I can tell a better story.


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