The Art of Still Life

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The photographs of Lewis Carroll that I had seen up until now were all black and white. I was so intrigued by the world of color he seemed to be portraying, that I decided to do further research on his images in color. This is a collection of my findings.

I have been studying fine art and photography for over 40 years, but had never heard the name, Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). It wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I found out about his remarkable work. At first, I thought it was quite strange that such a famous author would take such vibrant photographs of children, but then again, as a clergyman, he was also a teacher and most likely loved children. The other thing that struck me from the start is just how colorful these images are.

This set of photos is one of the most delightful photographic series I have ever seen. They are not only beautifully composed, but so full of life and color! It’s hard to imagine them being taken over 100 years ago without any of the modern technology we have today.

I feel privileged to have discovered this treasure trove of photos by Lewis Carroll!

Check out my other blog on fine art photography called “The Art of Still Life” here on WordPress.”

The subject of my project is that of still-life photography. However, I am not just photographing objects, I am dissecting the medium itself. In my opinion, the photographic medium has seen a vast amount of change throughout the years. The first photographs were all very simple in their composition and were generally taken from a high angle to show as much detail as possible. These early photographs were taken with cast-off equipment from the war, including cameras and plates that could only hold a few minutes worth of exposure before they had to be changed out.

The medium progressed through the years to what is now known as “snapshots”. These are pretty much what they sound like: they are photos taken carelessly without much thought put into them. The composition rarely calls much attention to itself because most snapshots are intended to capture an event or person in a way that makes it easy to remember later on and share with others. This style of photography progressed throughout the years and has continued even today.

Then there is what I like to call “modern” photography. This is a style where composition is regarded more highly and you can see it in almost every photograph you take nowadays. F-stops and shutter speeds are used to create a mood for each shot and photographers spend many

The idea of the camera obscura is an extremely old one, and it has been used for many purposes. It was a tool for artists as well as a toy for children and a way for scientists to study light. It was used to demonstrate principles of optics, and also to make little toys like the ones described above.

I find the strange little handmade boxes to be the most interesting part of this story though, probably because I’ve seen so many of them. While I could never figure out what they were supposed to do, they still seemed strangely compelling. They are not particularly beautiful, but that doesn’t seem to matter. They have some kind of weird magic about them.

I was very lucky in my timing, because on February 28th the blog 365 Days of Still Life featured several photos of these mysterious little boxes on their site and explained how they worked. And once again, I’m left with my mouth hanging open in wonder at just how much there is out there that I never knew about.

A well lit still life or landscape photo is extremely simple to create. You set up a table, put your subject on it and light it with an off camera flash. The key is the background is black (or very dark). This creates separation between the subject and the background.

Tthe photographers who took these photos were masters of light, they created their own light, they didn’t just rely on what was there. It’s as if they were creating their own universe and then placing their subjects in that universe. I think this kind of photography is more creative than taking pictures of people or animals. The photographer has complete control over everything in the shot!

There are lots of great examples of this type of photography online if you start looking for them. Here are a few to get you started:

The first post of this blog, in the spring of 2011, was about the young chemistry teacher Joseph Niepce who developed into one of the most important photographers in history by inventing photography. He was born in Chalon-sur-Saône (France) on January 7, 1765 and died on August 13, 1833 in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes (France). He was a precursor of modern photography.

The name “Niepce” is now associated with a prize awarded every two years to a photographer under the age of 45. One winner is announced each year at the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival in Arles (France). The prize is sponsored by the city of Chalon-sur-Saône and its museum: Musée Nicéphore Niépce.*

Despite his achievements, he is mostly known as one of the co-inventors of photography. Some people think that he invented photography but this is not true because he did not invent any photographic processes. He simply discovered them and made them public for all to use.

He never took photographs himself but left instructions for others to follow that allowed others to do so. His nephew and heir, Isidore

Artists in the early 1800s were called the Pre-Romantics. This period was a time of great change in art, with new styles and techniques being used. With that though came great criticism, especially from the social elite who were used to seeing paintings that looked a certain way. The new styles weren’t considered proper art and were dismissed by many.

Many artists and art lovers saw this as an injustice and formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 to promote their art. These artists received inspiration from the medieval period and nature. Their artwork was more naturalistic than other artwork at that time, showing things as they saw them with no idealization or romanticisation.

The group set out to reform English art by rejecting what they called “academic traditions”. They believed that art should be based on “truth to nature” and representing things accurately, not idealising them or following trends without thought.

I’m sure that you are all familiar with the Pre-Raphaelite art movement. It was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement, which began in England during the first half of the 19th century. The group was made up of a small number of young art students and recent graduates from the Royal Academy schools, who were dissatisfied with what they felt was the stale state of British art at the time. The intention of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was to reform English painting by rejecting what they felt was a mechanistic approach created by formal training and instead, to return to art which conveyed truthfulness and sincerity.

The most well-known artists in this movement were Edward Burne-Jones and William Holman Hunt, who formed a close friendship at the Royal Academy school. The paintings contained in this post are what is sometimes referred to as “stunted” or “maimed” Pre-Raphaelite paintings. These works were generally produced between 1851 and 1856, but also included some later examples. They were characterised by their interest in darkening backgrounds, as well as an overall flatness of light and shade.

The first two artists featured here are William Dyce (1806 – 1860) and Henry Wallis (1812

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