In the very early stages of working through the course, I have intermittently enjoyed using my camera at home in a certain way that I never do. My practice is something I almost always do outdoors and even away from my local confines. Ironically as I have stated my professed interest in the Bauhaus, specifically the idea of having a place of experimentation and construction, yet I have traditionally been more of an explorer. So working at home and in controlled environments is a departure for me and a complete change of scale.
As previous works have shown, I photograph in B&W and will do so for the duration of this course. It is not for sure that I will work in a form of nature morte, or still life for BoW so far, but I have been doing so because at this stage the goal is to enjoy and practice in an open ended way.
My photographic inspirations as a starting point for still life are Edward Weston's Cabbage Leaf (see fig. 1.) and on a literature level, Junichirō Tanizaki's In Praise of Shadows. I come back to this book so often. Not only for the sensibility of how light is appreciated from a different culture, but also as a reminder that our technology, including the camera, was globalised. “These machines are the inventions of Westerners and are, as we might expect, well suited to the Western arts.” (Tanizaki, 1933/2001, p.17). I don't completely agree with this statement, but it does pose an important point which he also raised, saying “…how much better our own photographic technology might have suited our complexion, our facial features, our climate, our land.” (Tanizaki, 1933/2001, p.16). It is a fair reflection to consider that globalisation might have affected other cultures more than our own.
Oddly enough, another Japanese artist, Hiroshi Sugimoto, undertook a project on conceptual models (see fig. 2.) which were made in Germany and exported to Japan as teaching tools for maths and science. His postmodern approach bears resemblance to Weston's Cabbage Leaf with the black background and a soft singular side light which accentuates the texture and contours of the object. So here I ask is there a continuum? To go back to Weston's modernist classic but with Tanizaki's reflections in mind.
In my test images above I have used only a single candle light (to Tanizaki's taste), illuminating from the side, and through exploring the angle of view, seek to make the image obscure. The low ambience is deliberately dimmer than that of Sugimoto and Weston. They remind me of Joo Myungduck's Lost Landscapes which in Zone System terms luminance peaks at zone 3. And having test printed it, the beauty comes from the shadows, which echoes what Tanizaki remarked “Such is our thinking - we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.” (Tanizaki, 1933/2001, p.46). Holding the print in a darkened space is the pleasure I take from the test. Of course that experience cannot be shared online unfortunately but some things are to remain tactile.
Joo, Myungduck (1993) Lost Landscapes. Kyoto: Kyoto Shoin ARM.
Sugimoto, H (no date) Available at: https://www.sugimotohiroshi.com (Accessed on 22.08.18).
Sugimoto, Hiroshi (2015) Conceptual Forms and Mathematical Models. Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag.
Tanizaki, J (1933/2001) In Praise of Shadows. London: Vintage.
List of illustrations
Figure 1. Weston, E (1931) Cabbage Leaf [Photograph] At: https://huxleyparlour.com/edward-westons-cabbage-an-icon-of-modernist-photography/ (Accessed on 22.08.18)
Figure 2. Sugimoto, H (2004) Dini's Surface [Photograph] At: https://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/new-page-24 (Accessed on 22.08.18)