During the current lockdown in England in response to Covid 19 I am not able to go very far to take photographs so I am having a hunt through my back catalogue to see what I did on this day in a previous year.
Here’s today’s example, taken on the 27th January 2019 and shows a detail of St Nicholas Hall, Hertford, Hertfordshire. It was once a church hall but more recently an antiques shop. When I took the photograph two years ago it stood empty and I believe it still does.
Another in my occasional series of photographs taken on this day in an earlier year. And again, another day when I don’t seem to have taken any photographs in the past so I have chosen a random one taken many years.
This is a waterfall taken somewhere in Ireland in October in the early 1980s on a cycling holiday.
I write this on a Sunday morning in late January. Outside the window snow is falling and the world lies still. It’s a day for hunkering down and staying warm indoors. Much of our lives have been lived indoors in the past year. As a photographer this has meant fewer landscapes and more still lives.
Still life is older than photography. Still life or “nature morte” (literally dead nature) was a popular subject matter for painters. They would arrange and paint a number of objects, typically of a luxurious nature such as game, fish, fruit, and flowers. There was very often an underlying sense that the objects depicted would fade away thus presenting an allegory on the transience of life, and human vanity. Sometimes this would be rammed home by the inclusion of a skull or some other symbol of death!
The genre became popular with early photographers. Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of one early photographic process, used his invention to photograph objects such as the statues around his home in Wiltshire, England, for example. There were some very practical reasons for choosing still life. Early photographic processes required long exposure times and inanimate objects don’t move.
Also, it gave early photographers a chance to practice their new artform.
Initially they would emulate the older still life paintings partly because they had no other frame of reference but also because they wanted to gain respectability for their new artform and showing it as a continuation of an older tradition was one way of doing this.
Gradually though they began to exploit the new technology, cropping objects at the edge of the frame and using focus to emphasise parts of the subject. Some still life photographs became almost abstract.
Why take still life photographs?
Here are four reasons why I take still life photographs.
First of all, I feel I am completely in control of the process and the subject matter. I can choose and arrange the objects as I wish. And I don’t have to worry about asking permission before photographing something!
Secondly, still life photography is a way of bringing order out of chaos. This can be said of any form of photography, of course, but there is something unique about still life photography where I bring the chaos in the form of a disparate choice of objects and then order them in such a way to tell a story in front of the lens.
And there is also something quite immersive about still life photography. It is very easy to lose myself in the small world I have created on the table as I re-arrange objects and the lighting to get the pictures I want. In the strange world we find ourselves in at the moment it is very comforting to focus in on a small world that I have complete control over.
Finally, It’s also good for observational skills. I can give myself plenty of time to really look at the objects in front of me. How are they laid out? What’s in the foreground? What’s in the background? Is something unintentionally obscuring something else? What’s the best composition for these objects? Where is the light coming from? Are there any unwanted shadows? What about reflections? Unlike other forms of photography I have the luxury of time and complete control to be able to answer those questions to my (almost) complete liking.
This photograph was taken on the 22nd January 2017 and was part of a project looking at what remained of the old railway that ran through the centre of Weymouth, Dorset. The line used to carry trains from the station to the dockside but no trains have run along it since the 1990s, and now much of it has been removed.
The photographs were the subject of an exhibition I held in Weymouth Library in May 2017.
These photographs are being published during the third Covid 19 lockdown in England when it is difficult to get out to take too many new images.
I am not sure when this photograph was taken but I thought I would share as I don’t seem to have ever photographed anything on the 20th January.
This was an early photograph taken on an old Zeiss Ikon 120 film camera. I think it shows the interior (and exterior – a double exposure!) of all that remains of the old church in Fleet, Dorset. The rest of the church was destroyed in a massive storm in the early nineteenth century.
Today’s photograph was taken just a year ago outside London Bridge Station. I loved the symmetry created by the reflection of the station roof in the pool in the foreground.
After last week’s blog on 2020 now it’s time to look to the coming year. In the current circumstance making plans might not seem the best idea. Life, the world and pandemics can get in the way. However I am always the sort of person who likes to look to the future and see what I can achieve next.
This year I do have a couple of plans, both for new projects. They are in the very early days. One of them I am still just thinking about and, whilst I have taken some photographs for the second one, both require circumstances to change a little bit before I can start them in earnest.
Watch this space for more details on both of them.
In the meantime I will continue to take photographs over the coming year. It is fascinating to think that all those pictures I have taken and shared here over the last twelve months did not exist this time last year. What new work might appear in 2021?
I have chosen to illustrate this post with a photograph I took in the early summer. It was taken as the first lockdown in England was beginning to ease. The weather was improving and people were beginning to venture out. Most places were still shut so they were beginning to connect with the outdoors. I feel it represents a sense of hope and optimism (perhaps at that point, misplaced optimism) but a definite feeling that things would improve.
Best wishes to you all in these strange and unsettling times.
During the first Covid 19 lockdown, when it was not possible to get out to take many new photographs I trawled through my back catalogue to see what photographs I have taken on that day in earlier years.
The original photographs were shared on my Flickr account. This time I plan to share them here. It will be an occasional series as I don’t have photographs for everyday, especially at this time of year.
I hope that I don’t have to keep it running for too long!