Still Life – Completion

On Friday I posted a blog with the last photograph in my 2014 Still Life Project. For those who follow me will know that each week during 2014 I created a still life related to the events in my life during the past seven days. A few people have questioned why I am stopping, however this  project was planned to be just for one year, if I continued then I would have to create one every week for the rest of my life for the concept to make sense.

It may sound odd but I am still not completely sure why I created this ‘diary’. It was not about pictorial or photographic qualities, though I did ‘arrange’ objects to make a comprehensible composition, the actual objects in many ways didn’t matter and yet did. I did not choose objects for any other reason that they represented something; a feeling; an event during the past week.

The initial idea came from an appreciation of the still life paintings by Zurbaran, the simple row of objects on a shelf which has influenced many photographers and artists in their complex simplicity. Looking back maybe I should have been more rigorous and built a shelf to line objects up on. From the first one I used the same sheet of paper for the background, if you look at the photographs from the beginning on the dedicated page, you will see how this £1 two meter roll of grey craft paper deteriorated. Only one Still Life didn’t use this background, when I was on holiday in France, I feel now I should have taken it with me! The paper was taped to a mirror and rolled out onto the same roll around IKEA unit, as can be seen below.

I only used the available lighting from a south facing window, I usually took the photograph between 9.30 and 10am, a couple had to be taken later because of low light and on two I used flash from the side to enhance the natural light.


I used the same camera, a Canon EOS-M with standard 18-55 lens, always on 100 ISO, so exposures were quite long. The best setting seemed to be f8-f11 at 2 seconds, which gave the least ‘noise’ and fullest range of colour and tone. I used an electronic remote, and my 30 year old Slik tripod.

All the images were worked on in Adobe Lightroom and trimmed to a 4×3 landscape format. The main work in Lightroom was usually to increase the colour and lower the exposure of smaller or more detailed objects. I could have done with my old Sekonic Studio Pro lightmeter, but that got stolen over 20 years ago.

The camera and technology are there to create the image and shouldn’t be just about them. The photographs were sometimes highly personal, for instance there is one which features all the medical aids and tablets I use on a daily basis during the week; I have a stoma following an operation 11 years ago for acute ulcerative colitis. Maybe not the most pleasant thing to highlight, but if this ‘diary’ were to be complete they had to be there. Some weeks I highlighted one aspect of my life – all the clothes I wore – the mugs/cups I drink from. I created a couple of ‘specials’, in one I made cut out subbuteo style footballers of my favourite player each day during the first week of the World Cup.

What I will do with this set of photographs I am not sure. I will probably make a book on ISSUU, it would be hard to exhibit them without exhibiting all 52, so maybe a large poster.

It wasn’t an easy Project. Each day I wrote a word down on an Excel sheet which I then tried to illustrate. They could be called visual poetry. My life is not particularly busy so some days were very hard to find something, a bit like the childhood diary which after a few days peters out. But I have completed it, maybe not how I envisaged. About a quarter way through I could see a potential but couldn’t introduce other elements or different ways of working without starting from the beginning.

The Project has to be seen as a completed whole, rather than in its individual parts. I learnt a great deal from it as the technical processes were so different than what I usually do. This has led to new ideas for future projects, one of which will begin in January.

Sometime soon I may work out what exactly it was I was doing and perhaps why.


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