Just A Pretty Picture?

still life with lobster and scallops

Welcome to my second piece musing about my practice and what my photographs mean. We are now past Easter and Passover (see my previous blog) and I’ve been looking again at some of my work.

I love it when visitors to my exhibitions (remember those?!) or website describe my photographs as beautiful because I create them with that aim in mind. I always think everybody deserves something beautiful in their lives, don’t you agree? But beyond that, if the viewer wants to explore it, there is often more to discover and stories to tell.

I use natural light, manipulating it as necessary to achieve the highlights and shadows I need. Sometimes I need drama, at other times I want lightness. It’s not quite so straightforward when using window light rather than artificial lights in a studio as I have to work with the weather, using my camera to best effect and often waiting hours, if not days, for the right conditions to start creating my photographs.

The great Dutch Masters of the Golden Age used their art to warn those wealthy merchants, who were their patrons, that their life and wealth were temporary and they should acknowledge their brief time on Earth, preparing themselves for the hereafter. I don’t think my messages are quite so stark, but it doesn’t do any harm to contemplate the futility of possessions, does it?

Momento Mori II
Momento Mori II

A human skull is often used as a literal reminder of our own mortality, but there are other objects that can represent this. This photograph, Momento Mori II, features many elements that allude to the temporary nature of life and the possessions we collect around us. There is the ubiquitous skull, but take a closer look. The shells used to house living beings but are now empty. Feathers are another symbol representing transience as are flowers because they don’t last forever. Time passing is shown in the very real sense with a watch in the centre. Even learning, represented by books and the inkwell, is not permanent because when we pass on, so does our knowledge. The empty wine glass is often a feature in the Dutch Masters’ work too, again it’s an empty vessel that once held something enjoyed. But it’s not all bad news! There are some figs – the very essence of life, fertility and lust! So you see? All life is here.

Scented Blush Roses - Black
Scented Blush Roses

My Scented Blush Roses – Black features a vase of pink roses (four varieties in all) and is a perennial favourite. All these blooms have the most wonderful perfume and give such pleasure throughout the summer. But like our own beauty, these too will fade. The feathers at the base of the vase also represents this transience, but the perfume bottle shows that the essence of the roses can be captured for just a little bit longer. The reflection of the window in the vase shows a summer sky adding to the overall optimism of the piece.

Still Life with Summer Fruits
Still Life with Summer Fruits

My Still Life with Summer Fruits is total optimism and lusciousness in one photograph! The heady days of summer are distilled into those sumptuous fruits and heavenly perfumed roses. A celebration of all that summer can provide – including a little wine produced from sun ripened grapes. Each fruit – peaches, grapes, strawberries, cherries and plums have stories to tell – far too many to discuss here.

So, yes, I love it when my photographs are described as beautiful, but I really appreciate it when time is taken to really explore them – there is so much more to gain!

Do explore the rest of my website to enjoy a collection of my recent work. A selection of my photographs are available as beautifully produced A5 greeting cards. They are larger than most cards giving you ample space to write a longer message to those very special people in your life. Have a wander through at https://www.sncards.co.uk