Still Life Vs Real Life – Pass The Salt

I have been reading Tom Wolfe’s satirical book on the rise of modern art writing and between laughs, have realised that what he says is true – we have all allowed ourselves to be driven away from realism in art and toward anything else that allows the artist to produce something salable even though they have no talent or skill.

This may seem a harsh way to characterise the last century and a bit, but it does seem that getting a crafted work of art that looks in any way like the real world that we can see is pretty rare. The photographic artist ( go battle the semantics of that one elsewhere – there are too many breakables here…) can do it more of it more easily but the advent of digital editing programs may call even them away.

What a delight, then, to discover a real life still life presented to me in my studio by someone else…just ready for a bit of light and a press of the shutter button. When the sitter for a costumed portrait session presented himself in an extremely picturesque outfit he brought along an entire banquet to support the impression he wished to portray. A historical theme, but fortunately from a period in history when there was plenty to eat and it could be cooked well.

My contribution was as simple as two Elinchrom lights – one gridded into the tabletop and one acting as weak fill from halfway across the room. Raw shooting meant that I could adjust the colour temperature of the rendition after the fact, but in reality the food was chosen with a good harmonious colour palette to start with. And there was nothing artificial about it. That sort of thing in ancient Britain was impossible anyway.

I am happy to be able to report that modern artistic practice with a camera is ever so much more comfortable that historic painting or sculpture when it comes to food. My studio cannot afford fake food as some of the big ones do overseas, so I must make do with real – the upside of this is that the shoot can be done in a reasonable time and afterwards the props can be plated and eaten. Waste not, want not.

Post processing is a matter of making the image look cosy and then passing it through enough plug-ins to suggest artist’s drawing or painting. Cry foul or phony all you like – I have Tom Wolfe’s reassurance that I am on the cutting edge of art the further I get from photo realism.

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