Monday, June 5, 2017

Found Still Life

by Carol

To feel the grace of God in a painting of the dear, quiet commonness of a domestic interior, or in a landscape, seascape, cityscape, trains us to feel the grace of God in the thing itself in situ."
                                                                                    Susan Vreeland

I have just come across the term "found still life." I'm not sure if this term has been around for long, but its new to me, and it fits right in with my approach to photography. The definition of a still life is this: "a genre of photography used for the depiction of inanimate subject matter, typically a small group of objects. " It is basically the adoption or adaptation of artistic still life painting. Those paintings are all about design, with the artist arranging the elements into an interesting composition. Often the objects are symbolic. Always lighting is critical. In addition, shadow, value, color and shape are all incorporated. Do any of those terms bring photography to mind?

In a photographic still life, the same principals apply. The photographer sometimes works with the composition and the light for hours. Should I place 3 lemons in the bowl? One lemon out and two in? a sliced lemon next to the full bowl? Should I light the scene from above, below, right or left - backlighting perhaps? Should I shoot from above? from the side?  Which lens highlights the beauty? For me, although the results are much appreciated, the rigidity is too much.

Still life photography is a wonderful way to learn to work with form and light, but in practice, the controlled atmosphere fails to make my heart sing. For me the excitement comes from noticing the beauty arranged by a higher consciousness. How can I expect to match or surpass the grace of a dying rose caught in the golden hour, or the curve of an egret's neck as it bends into a stream for dinner? And then there is the water itself - in all its forms!

There can be beauty that's less obvious in a pile of leaves or twigs, or the way a shadow skims the water's edge, boulders scattered randomly near a river, a stand of birch trees. Even Man's sometimes heavy hand can create unexpected harmony in a pile of nails tossed aside, an old fence, a sunburst of rust. 

In photographing "found still life" the idea is that the objects are inanimate,  that nothing is moved into place by the photographer. There are no people in the shot. If the objects or their pattern tell a story, or symbolize something deeper in and of themselves, so much the better for creating as unique and meaningful image. Have you happened upon one of nature's still life compositions lately? Won't you share it in our gallery? And if you should choose to backlight it, it will even fit into our new monthly Focus On You theme. How ever you choose to shoot it, I'm guessing that your biggest reward will be from getting out into nature to look for it.  Happy wandering!

"No better way is there to learn to love nature than to understand art. It dignifies every flower of the field. And the boy who sees the thing of beauty which a bird on the wing becomes when transferred to wood or canvas will probably not throw the customary stone."
                                                                                                     Oscar Wilde


heyjudephotography said...

I love that phrase - found still life. I too completely appreciate traditional still life and understand how much thought and work goes into them, but I must say I totally connect with the found still life. I have never looked at these shots as natures still life before, but I love that idea and I think when I go out and about from now on I will look at nature and my shots in this way

Cathy H. said...

Found still life . . . I like the sound of that. So much beauty has been placed right in front of us,if we'll only look and find it.

Dotti said...

I love this concept! I tinkered around with traditional still life for a while and might still tinker occasionally, but the concept of "found still life" is a much more accurate description of what I like to do. In fact, I've often thought in my own mind and heart that taking/making photos in the garden or woods or coast is still life photography. Now that thought has been validated. Thank you, Carol!

terriporter said...

I also tried traditional still life for awhile, gathering objects and arranging them and then taking photos from several different angles. But it never satisfied me the way the still life that presents itself to us in nature does. I love the term "found still life" and will think of it often as I wander in nature and see the still life images that are right there for the capturing.

JUDITH said...

I enjoyed your blog and I always learn something,

Carol said...

Hi Judith,
So glad you enjoy the blog . We never know as we are writing! Good to see you here!

kelly said...

I love this concept Carol!

Post a Comment

Thank you for sharing part of your day with us. If for any reason you are unable to leave a comment here on this post, please leave your comment on our Facebook page or in our Flickr discussion group. We love hearing from you!

© Focusing On Life