May, 2010 Archives

The first time I posted still lives I called the post Cabin Fever.  Spring Fever is the next installment.  In January of 2010, I had never made a still life or printed a large color image for exhibition.  And then February rolled around and I received a macro lens for my 49th birthday.   I started this “project” on a lark, a few weeks after explaining portfolio requirements to my students.  I decided to begin a new project (make my own portfolio) and bring fresh work to each scheduled critique, just as they would have to do.  This way I could empathize with the deadlines and commiserate along the way.  To be fair, I wanted to try something unfamiliar, something with the potential to really frustrate.  Still life work, color and macro photography were all new to me.

A couple summers ago I visited Amsterdam where Van Gogh is the patron saint.  But I was surprisingly taken with the Pieter Claesz “Vanitas” still life (lives) in the Rijksmuseum instead.  As a photographer, I have long been interested in documenting the temporal.  Past projects (all portraiture) focused on life’s seemingly significant quickly fleeting passages.  Somehow, this still life stuff also fits into the overarching theme:  All things must pass (thank you George Harrison)…  a kind of  Memento Mori  (remember you must die) exploration.

Despite such gravitas, I’m currently, happily photographing the organic and cultural detritus that surrounds me.   This includes family mementos, souvenirs, collected ephemera and artifacts, and the flowers I grow, the bones unearthed and/or discovered in my wooded back acres or the carcasses of wild things that I find on a morning walk (or my cat brings me).   I have a personal connection to and there’s a story behind almost every object.

My workflow is now digital from start to finish.  I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II tethered to a Macbook.  I’m using natural light with various reflectors and light diffusers and shields (and occasionally, when the exposure is long enough, a flash light).   I set up and shoot anywhere and everywhere depending on the day and subject: my kitchen, in the garage, in the shade of a tall maple.  No studio setups.  Each shoot is a problem solving exercise and learning experience.  I don’t know if this is an “ubi sant” meditation on mortality and life’s transience (I am approaching 50) or just a fascination with the color, texture and stories of the flotsam that drifts by me on daily basis.  Perhaps it doesn’t matter.

I just invested in an Epson 3880 to replace my geriatric Epson 2200.  I literally unpacked the box 48 hours ago.  So far so good.  I’m looking forward to making 14” X 21” prints.  But more on that later.

The UPS man brought me a rock today.  It was a river rock with “Jasper” engraved on its smooth surface.   You can order anything on line these days.  Even pet memorials.  Jasper and Willa (his sister) came to live with us in 2005 as kittens.  Jasper was a well-loved, regal feline – large, muscular, smart, friendly and gentle (with people, not rodents).  He was a proficient hunter (mice, moles, chipmunks) and was eaten by a stray dog in the backyard.  Not actually eaten, but killed.  I put the river rock with his name on it in the garden today.  Over the past few years Jasper has posed for me on numerous occasions.  Here are three of my favorite shots with Jasper, R.I.P.

Jasper and my son from the Boys' Life series.

This image was made for a charity wine auction poster. The only stipulation from the organizers: include a wine bottle and glass. I bought a bottle of Gatao, a green wine from Portugal, because of the cat on the label. Jasper was very willing to help out on this project. My goldfish George had qualms.

Jasper as a kitten. This is from the shameless merchandise department, designed for a mouse pad. Jasper continued to curl up on laptops until the very end - when he made a laptop look very small. I guess he liked the warmth.