The history of still-life goes back to the early 1600s when paintings of inanimate subjects such as bouquets became popular in the Europe. Though the genre dawned in Germany, France, Italy and Spain as well, the epicentre of still-life was the Netherlands.
“In general, the rise of still-life painting in the Northern and Spanish Netherlands (mainly in the cities of Antwerp, Middelburg, Haarlem, Leiden, and Utrecht) reflects the increasing urbanization of Dutch and Flemish society, which brought with it an emphasis on the home and personal possessions, commerce, trade, learning—all the aspects and diversions of everyday life.”*
For those who are familiar with the history of photography, it is perhaps surprising that early photographs did actually not adopt the genre of still-life at once. Despite several days of exposure that Nicéphore Niépce’s camera obscura required, and the more humane ten minutes it took Daguerreotypes (named after Louis Daguerre) to develop, portraits of people were the most common form of photography in the late 19th century.
The probably most important still-life photographer is Edward Weston (1886-1958) who – through his photography – transformed everyday objects into sculpture-like pieces of art.
It will be your task to create your very own still-life photography this week.
Maybe this interview with a Berlin-based artist can help you to think outside-the-fine-dining-table and breaking the boundaries the word “still-life” imposes. Keep in mind: a still-life does not require pretty objects. (One can argue whether still lifes of dead game are actually beautiful, or not.)
Photographing still-lifes requires you to see beyond the visible while getting the best out of it.
*Walter Liedtke: Still-Life Painting in Northern Europe, 1600–1800 (http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/nstl/hd_nstl.htm)