“Still Life”

This project was a non traditional still life assignment for digital photography studio. We spent time looking at artists who challenged the photograph as either a documentation of an event, a sculpture, we talked about where art lies: either in the object where the photograph serves as a documentation, or the actual photograph on the wall or screen. Basically, the assignment encouraged us to think about posing things for the camera and what that meant. We needed to turn in six photos. Here’s what I’ve got.

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I’d say this was one of my favorite out of the set. I spent a lot of time walking through the Fan collecting bricks from alleys and such and amassing them in this spot I’d found, a sort of secluded area in front of some trash cans that had an easily accessible fire escape directly above it, making it easy to get a very nice straight down view of whatever I set up in that space. I decided to follow the cracks in the pavement to make this organic shape out of a very hard and rigid building material.

I didn’t give much thought to the conceptual aspects of these photographs, basically it was about getting into a space, making intuitive decisions with with combination of material and space, making a photograph to document the event, tearing it down, and getting out before I turned too many heads.

Funny aside, while I was on the fire escape making some exposures, a woman came out of one of the doors and was like “what are you doing??” urgently. I told her I was making a photograph of something I’d set up below, she said that this was private property and I had to leave, and I’d say I’d be gone in a few minutes. I made a few more photographs, felt satisfied, and began to move the bricks out of the way. Right as I was finishing up she came back out and got irate again, saying the bricks were a hundred years old or something to that effect. I said I’d picked them up all over the fan and brought them here. She asked if I was an artist, I said yes m’am, and she said “Oh, well, I’m sorry. We’ve had burglars come in through this fire escape before and I’ve called the police numerous times, but I suppose if you’re an artist, that’s fine.”

I love that conversation!

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The least convincing piece for me was also unsurprisingly the first I made. There’s this tight alley I have to walk through every time I want to do my laundry, and the first idea I had for this project was to hang a lot of twine between the two walls and photograph that. This was just a weird in-between, though. I wish I’d had the time (and money to buy the twine) to fill up the entire alley and photograph that, I wish I’d integrated the space into the photograph a bit better, but what I was left with was this strange web that I couldn’t quite get directly above to photograph. Unfortunately I think the sculpture was much more interesting than the photograph, and this only serves as a poor documentation, whereas in the first photograph, the forced overhead perspective of the photograph was integral in understanding the piece. This piece just feels unengaging as a photograph.

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The cabinet photographed here says “move this”, which isn’t entirely evident at first. This was another instance in which the action was just so obvious to me that I had to do it- it was blatantly telling me what to do. I got my friend Will and we dragged it from the alley it was sitting in to a nearby alley with a dumpster. The whole thing sort of fell apart on the way, and the last photograph is obviously all of its pieces thrown into the dumpster. Will and I talked about artwork that has basically functioned as civil service, since on the reverse side of this cabinet someone had written basically “whoever own this shit please move it it’s in the way”. I thought it was an interesting idea, but I don’t know if that specifically is something I’d buy to move forward in my own work. But it was a great one off idea for this assignment, it was right there written in front of me.

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Here is my second least favorite photograph. It is a pile of sticks, delicately balanced, yes, but you can’t quite tell that from the photograph. It looks alright. But there’s not much going for it.

One of my favorite artists, Andy Goldsworthy, does these really incredible sculptures out in nature where he basically uses really meticulous and careful placement of natural things to create these really beautiful and ethereal sculptures. While all most of these photos were influenced by his work to varying degrees, I would say that this is the closest to a direct rip-off of concept, and unfortunately it’s not even close to nearly as good as he did it. But it was another photo for this assignment.

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Another photograph pertaining to an intervention and playfulness in a space, these were pages of books that I glued together end to end in a long scroll and hung over a window in a parking garage stairwell. That’s that. I sort of had the idea to cover a space with the pages of something, went from newspapers to this incredible set of free books I found at a thrift store, and rolled with it. I made a lot of these scroll things at home, brought them into the space, and just dove in. The photograph isn’t stellar, but it doesn’t really have to be either. These were a nice set of photographs just in terms of starting to flex the muscles of how to intervene in spaces, be quick and loose, and just make photographs that are unique and fun. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s certainly a skill that’ll come in handy later. Already has, actually, for a different project. But more on that later.

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I post this one last because it’s actually the most incongruous from the rest of the group. This image was created by pushing a block of ice off the top floor of a parking deck onto the floor below it. As the ice melted, I periodically traced the outside edge of the water with sticks of compressed charcoal. Evident in the photograph is the interaction of the water with the charcoal, causing it to fade and run together as the water flowed down the slight incline and eventually evaporated. After I ran out of charcoal, I left for a few hours and came back to photograph when all the water was completely evaporated.

This was the only incarnation of this idea, and it had an interesting characteristic of release of my inclination to have a high degree of control over everything in the frame, where it’s placed, how, why, etc. I released the content of the photograph to the action of the water running and evaporating. Now, I had an idea of how I thought this would look and obviously the selection of the location, method, compressed charcoal had a high influence on how the photo would turn out, but the action in the photograph was released to natural processes.

These set of photographs were very dissimilar from my normal approach to photography, but it’s a set of photos I enjoyed producing. I have already worked an installation aspect into a daily practice assignment I have as a direct result of working on this project, and I think it’s a method I won’t be quick to abandon moving forward.

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