As the gardening season ends I am looking around for off-season projects to keep my fingers busy and my creative mind whirring. I am considering a daily, or more realistically, a weekly personal challenge for the next three months. I have a few ideas - all are around art making - and I may decide to dive into more than one. But the one that I am most interested in is exploring still life photography.
Would you describe "the flat lay", (a style of overhead shooting of objects that is ubiquitous on instagram and blogs) a modern day version of still life? I think I would, but I am interested to cultivate my skills a little further. I'd like to experiment with angles and light. I want to learn how to capture texture and mood as well as focus on styling and story telling.
Can one still-life image tell a story? I think so - with some thought - a picture is worth a thousand words. And I am curious to explore the history of still life painting too. I read that still life is considered "the lowest rung in the hierarchy of genres" . I wonder if it would be "lowly" when translated out of painting and into photography - I bet not. I see some significant technical hurdles to mastering the genre.
I think that there are quite a few challenges here that I am looking forward to mastering and I am studying the modern day masters to get inspiration in my quest. I've gathered seven instagram photographers that regularly share their own version of still life that are inspiring me.
1) Ana Zilhao - @_goodoldfashioned
Many photographers seem to approach photographic still life by dramically controlling the light. I am not sure if this light is also being controlled, but I think it is interesting to see beautiful compositions that are shot outside. Ana's images are mostly outside and I love the way she positions herself so that the image has a foliage frame.
2) John Ross - @pathchnyc
John's images are almost like paintings. He is really mastering the use of texture and light to make photogrpahy look enough like a painting that you have make a double take to be sure what you are seeing.
3) Karen - @permillion44
Of all the photographers that I have highlighted here, I think Karen's images are the best at telling stories. I wonder if the bachelor buttons are going to be pressed int he book, or if they are something she picked when she was returning from a relaxing time reading outdoors. Or maybe there is some other story going on here... my imagination is encouraged by her shots.
4) Jamie Jamison @alajamie
Jamie's style is clear and uncluttered. I can only hope that some of my initial attempts will be as successful as hers. They also remind me that the colors of fall are so beautiful and that is a particularly nice time of year to be undertaking a new challenge.
5) Emma Harris @aquietstyle
I've been following Emma since we were co-students in one of Holly Becker's courses a couple years ago. I adore her 'quiet style' - there seems to be no temptation go too far or to add too much. Emma's style seems so comfortable with simplicity. I struggle to achieve simplicity - it is ingrained in me to always do too much. I am reminded that less is always more.
6) N.C. Stephens @terminatetor
I am in awe of Nathaniel's ability to capture light. It is so lovely to be able to perfectly photograph a lit candle or capture a beam of light so beautifully. And steam from the tea - it is impressive to have all this successfully going on at the same time that you open the shutter. Never-mind the delicious collections of food that he bakes and assembles for his compositions.
7) Johnny Miller @johnny_miller
Johnny's still life's remind me of Edward Hopper paintings. Modern, full of contrast of light and dark and they are a bit edgy in their composition and subject. They are beautiful but strike me as a bit sad. These images seem more emotive than the other and they are a challenge to find my own unique artistic twist on the still life genre.
Do you know of any other still life photographers that I should look at? I am wide open to inspiration and looking forward to mastering (at least a little) this creative challenge.