352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Still-Lives Experiment

As you may have seen throughout the development of my FMP, in the first Formative Feedback Review session that we had on the 4th March 2015 (please see the “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Lecture 7 (Formative Feedback Review)” blog post), lecturer Anthony Luvera suggested that I should experiment with creating still-life images that depict the objects that I collected throughout my numerous trips up to the Lake District (as I wanted to collect these to see if they added an archival and immersive aspect to the project), in order to experiment with the creation of a narrative sequence that included both the collected object and the photograph of the landscape (as well as providing me with a photographic alternative to using the physical objects within my final exhibition piece). Within this session (as well as the Second Formative Feedback Session – please see the blog post entitled “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Lecture 11 (Second Formative Feedback Review and Output Considerations Discussion)”), Anthony therefore suggested that I should research into a variety of individuals that look at the documentation of objects, including Duncan Campbell’s “It for Others” as well as the work of Darren Harvey Regan and Joseph Kosuth (which can be found in the blog posts “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Technical Research” and “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Presentation Options Research”)

Researching into these particular individuals/pieces of work (as well as other photographers/artists that also incorporate still-lives into their projects, such as Joseph Wilcox and George Miles – please see the blog post “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Photographic Research”), one of the generalized pieces of inspiration I gained was the idea that the inclusion of these particular still-life images tended to enhance the immersive and contextualized aspects of the project (and therefore the audiences understanding). However, the main piece of inspiration that I gained, in relation to the technicalities of still-life photography was from both Darren Harvey Regan and Joseph Kosuth, and it was where they experimented with the manipulated aesthetics of the images in order to emphasize the documentarian aspect of the piece as well as increasing the authenticity of the object (for example, using the lighting to highlight the texture of the object whilst also using shadows in order to suggest its three-dimensional form, as well as shooting the objects “straight-on”).

On Tuesday 28th April 2015 (as this was the only available date for the studio for the next three or so weeks!), I therefore decided to conduct an experimental photo shoot, in order to try and recreate the manipulated aesthetics of the still-life images discussed above, as a way of providing me with information to see whether these were in fact more successful to use than the physical collected objects, and whether they enhanced the narrative and conceptual understanding of my project.

Below, you will therefore be able to find notes about the “Still-Lives” experiment (including the equipment and methodology that I used), the images that I created, and a reflection regarding the use of the technique within my FMP:

 


 

Equipment:

  • Canon 5D Mk II
  • Canon EF 24-105mm lens
  • Studio (with a white infinity curve/still-life background)
  • Bowens Lighting Travel Pack (with 2x 750 watt heads)
  • Sekonic L-308S Flashmate (light meter)
  • Photoshop CS6

 


 

Methodology:

For the methodology of this particular experiment, I considered a number of variables in order to allow me to try and recreate the manipulated aesthetics of the still life images from the pieces of research that I had conducted (as suggested above). This section therefore simply bullet-points some of the factors I considered, why I chose to shoot in certain ways, and the general technique I underwent on the day:

  • As you will be able to see from the photographs I have included below, I decided to shoot each individual object as well as photographing them in groups relating to the location in which I found them (for example, all of the objects that I found walking around Buttermere)
    • I wanted to experiment with documenting them individually in case the landscape photograph that I chose focused on the particular material that is documented within the still-life photograph
      • This would therefore create a strong marriage between the still-life and the landscape photograph, as the object would be used to highlight this section of the landscape image, which could then be used by the viewer to enhance their understanding relating to the physical methodology of revisiting these particular places, thus increasing their contextualized understanding of the project
    • As for the grouped objects, I simply wanted to experiment with this particular style as a way of trying to encapsulate the whole of the pathway journey that I went on surrounding this particular location, which could once again be used to enhance the physical methodology od the project
      • The inclusion of these grouped still-lives could also, possibly, enhance the viewers engagement with the project, as they could perhaps use this still-life image as inspiration to try and search for the objects that have been documented within the accompanying landscape photograph, thus increasing the authenticity of the project and its concept
  •  Another aspect that I decided to experiment with, as you can see, is the use of a white backdrop to frame my still-life images
    • This is because, as stated above, I obviously wanted to try and recreate similar still-lives to those of Darren Harvey Regan and Joseph Kosuth (who both tend to use white backgrounds), as well as the fact that white surfaces, when included within still-life images, tends to enhance the texture of the object, which, as stated previously, increases it’s authenticity
  • In relation to the lighting of these particular still-life photographs, as briefly stated above, I took the time to experiment with the lighting in order to try and recreate the lighting aesthetics used by both Darren Harvey Regan and Joseph Kosuth, in order to highlight the texture of the object, whilst also using shadows to suggest its three-dimensional form, in order to emphasize the documentarian aspect of the piece as well as increasing the authenticity of the object
  • Bearing this particular idea in mind (of enhancing the documentarian and authentic aspect of the still-life image), I also decided to shoot the objects “straight-on” in order to try and capture the “reality” of the object, whilst also referencing this idea of professionally organizing particular objects for surveillance purposes
    • This could once again be used to enhance the authenticity of the object, whilst also referencing the topographical documentation of the landscapes that I have undergone throughout my project
  •  I also decided to place the objects within the centre of my image as, not only is this the stereotypical technique used within still-life photography to document particular objects, but I also though that it’s central alignment would mirror the central “middle-of-the-road” composition I used within my landscape photographs, this increasing the success of their marriage (however, I know that if I do plan to include these still-life images within my final piece, I would have to crop them to a square format in order to enhance the consistence of the exhibition piece)
    • Leading on from this, I also obviously had to stage the objects within the photographs, but I tried to create displays that didn’t appear overtly staged, as a way of trying to represent the object in a “natural” way that would have been encountered within the location I took it from
      • However, this was obviously very difficult to do within the grouped still-lives, and so for these photographs I decided to make sure that each of the individual aspects still appeared relatively natural, but then I fitted them together (like a jigsaw) in order to try and enhance the natural forms of the objects
      • I also tried to position them so that the shadows of the objects weren’t hidden, in order to still enhance the three-dimensional form of each of the pieces
  •  Finally, with regards to the editing of these still-life images, I obviously took the time to look through my contact sheet to choose the more aesthetically pleasing images, whilst also making sure that they were all in focus (because, due to the closeness of the shoot, some of the objects tended to be slightly out of focus on occasion)
    • Once this section of the editing was complete, I then opened each of the images up into Camera RAW and Photoshop CS6 and synced some of the settings for each of the photos (including exposure, temperature, and whites), in order to create a whitened background as well as making the images appear more consistent
    • I then experimented with the rotation of the images, and soon decided that placing the shadow so that it appeared at the bottom left of the object, created a much more sticking and aesthetically pleasing image
      • However, doing this meant that some of the objects appeared to have been placed “upside-down” which, although I originally thought was a problem, soon found that this added a greater atmosphere to the still-life image, whilst also, often, representing the narrowing “middle-of-the-road” compositional perspective used within the accompanying landscape photograph
    • Once this was complete, I then spent time using both the “clone” and “spot remover” tool in order to remove edges of the table that were captured within the frame or any distracting particles that had been left on the table, in order to create a more professional looking still-life
    • As briefly mentioned above, however, although I suggested that I would need to crop the still-life images in order to mirror the dimensions of the landscape photograph, I decided not to do this within this particular experiment, and will therefore take time to contemplate this aspect if I do decide to use them in the future developmental stages of my project

 


 

Experiment Photos:

Single Objects:

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Grouped Objects:

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After-Thoughts and Reflection:

After looking at the final, edited photographs that I created from the “Still-Lives” experiment, I personally thought that, considering I have never really experimented with still-life photography before, they turned out very successfully. As suggested throughout the methodology section of this particular experiment, I feel that these still-life images enhance the documentarian and authentic aspect of my project and, although this could be seen as a positive aspect in relation to enhancing the physical methodology of my FMP, I personally feel that this adds a very literal sense to my project, which takes away from the conceptuality I wish to explore. With this being said, however, similar to the audio experiments I have previously conducted (please see the blog posts “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Interview with my Dad Experiment” and “352MC Professional photographic Practice – Ambient Audio Experiment”) I don’t feel that these still-life photographs would be strong enough as an individual piece and, as suggested above, throughout various pieces of research I have conducted, I think that the use of still-lives as an accompanying factor within my final piece could enhance the immersive and contextualized aspects of the project (and therefore the audiences understanding). However, the inclusion of these still-life aspects rely on whether the physical objects work as an accompanying feature within the project (as the inclusion of these aspects are preferable in comparison to the still-life representations of them – which I will obviously need to test out), as well as the fact that I will need to consider whether, as suggested above, these materials (in physical or photographic form) enhance the literal aspect of the project, overshadowing the conceptual.

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