Saturday, 12 March 2011

Inspired by Laura Letinsky - the value of attempting to re-create another artist's photographic style.

One of the joys of being a photography student is the time spent looking at the work of other artists whose work may be relevant to the subject that one is currrently exploring. This week I have been thinking about still life as a means of conveying life within the home. I particularly admire the work of Laura Letinsky who creates staged still life's as observations of forgotten details and remnants of daily subsistence and pleasure.

Through October 30 by Laura Letinsky
Laura, a professor at the University of Chicago said " I started being more interested in the stuff around the people and how that stuff was a stand- in, metaphorically and materially, for the way people seek satisfaction through things".

This resonates with my current interest in possessions and signs of human activity; the chocolate wrappers and squashed drink cans on the street , the cars and statues in front gardens and the adverts on TV that tell us how life can be better.

Today I set myself the task of trying to create a still life in the manner of Letinsky; I find that emulating the work of others' that inspires me helps to progress the creative process and encourages experimentation with new subject matter, concepts or ways of presenting an idea. You might consider that copying someone elses work is not truly creative; but isn't that how most artists learn their craft? It would not do to present an end product that looks just like the work of a famous artist, but I believe it is reasonable to explore a technique, learning from errors and mishaps in a way that allows one to develop.

To create the effect I needed an all white surface, so I worked with a white chipboard wall and a plastic Ikea table in my studio.

My studio table

I used daylight from a window on the right, and some bounced flash using a reflector to fill in the shadows towards the left. I started with some bits and pieces lying around me, including a blue plastic bag for a splash of colour. Laura uses a large format camera; I had to make do with my Canon 40D and 10-20mm lens. My new canon flash is a revelation; it does everything it says on the tin, and is a vast improvement on it's predecessor, allowing through- the- lens metering. What I like about Laura's work is the way she places objects on the edge of the frame, often close to falling off the surface used. This creates a visual tension.

Elements of a perfect life

I share a studio with Angelika, who has a roomful of toys for her art therapy.

 I moved on to playing around with objects that represent "home". I am mindful that many people in the world currently do not have such luxuries after the earthquake yesterday, and in my mind  am conscious of the distressing images of houses, cars and debris floating in a morass after the tsunami in Japan. Clean, fresh water is another luxury in many parts of the world. This image could be about how we take so much for granted.

House work

As an attempt at a Letinsky it fails.

 So I played around again with some different objects, including a feather duster that is entirely usesless, a plastic bag and the toy houses.

Reflecting on the images I realise that there can be many interpretations of what they "mean". This one could say something about the drudgery of everyday life; the cleaning and shopping. Or, depending on where the plastic bag comes from, it might convey a different message about materialism. It actually comes from The Whitechapel Gallery, another beautiful space that I have discovered as a result of doing this course, and therefore says something about the photographer.

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