“Create a set of still life pictures showing traces of life without using people”
I have just finished building a photographic lighting table in my shed, and It seemed like a good idea to try this out:
The exercise offered the option to use an iPhone or to do some more formal work, well the above image was taken rather hastily with my iPhone but I wanted to create a more considered image for the actual exercise, so I decided I would use the new table and light the subject properly. As someone who really enjoys the studio this is like a desktop studio so I am right at home again and artistically it felt right to me.
I looked at the work of William Eggleston and thought that his work reminded me of a town deserted waiting for the bomb, especially the little tricycle which has a post apocalypse feeling to it (The Museum of Modern Art, 2017) . Having just done an assignment on the loss of my parents the idea of memories being implanted on objects worked for me and I thought it might be interesting to paint a portrait of some of my family using objects that summed them up and construct a tableau of these items that suggested a human presence had been there.
For this exercise I chose two living and two dead family members, My daughters Claire and Laura and my Mum and Dad. The idea was easy to construct in my head as there were very strong links to artifacts for each of them.
For Claire my eldest daughter she is a scholar currently studying for her Masters Degree and always studying or with her head in a book, so for her I created a tableau if items to look like a typical day of study.
The next was Laura my youngest daughter, now while there are any aspects to her including a head for business she is best known in the house for the time it takes to get made up to go out and she spends a lot of effort on looking good before leaving the house so her tableau had to involve a makeup session.
Dad was easy he was a craftsman and could make anything so I went for woodwork tools and in particular used his plane to make some wood shavings to give movement to the tableau and suggest he had left it where he used it.
Mum was a gifted flower arranger and very crafty so I dug out her craft box and made a tableau out of the items I found inside, deliberately spilling the glitter to make it look like she had just finished a project and left everything where it was.
I chose to set the tableau up on a black seamless backdrop to suggest that it was a set of things taken out of time and frozen without the distraction of a background, thus making it timeless, I got this idea from Irving Penn’s work “Worlds in a small room” where he isolated the people he met from their surroundings by using a pop up tent as a studio, this idea has fascinated me since I read his book (Penn, 1980) and (The Irving Penn Foundation, 2017) .
The Museum of Modern Art. (2017). William Eggleston. Memphis. c. 1969 | MoMA. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/51630?locale=en [Accessed 30 Jul. 2017].
Penn, I. (1980). Worlds in a small room. London: Viking Press.
The Irving Penn Foundation. (2017). Worlds in a Small Room. [online] Available at: https://www.irvingpenn.org/worlds-in-a-small-room-80/ [Accessed 30 Jul. 2017].