What is it that such a clear-eyed vision of the particular wishes to convey? First, a principle of attention, simply that. A faith that if we look and look we will be surprised and will be rewarded. Then, a faith in the capacity of the object to carry meaning, to serve as a vessel. For what? Ourselves, of course.
—Mark Doty, Still Life with Oysters and Lemon
Everyday objects, rife with the residue of age and use, occupy my still life photographs. A lifetime’s collection of matchbooks or vintage toys salvaged from an attic, even the detritus collected from home merits attention. Worn and overlooked items hold an unknowable essence born of time’s passage. In this essence, I sense the ability for the object to express more than its simple functionality. Intriguing shapes and mysterious pasts exert gravity, beckoning a formal investigation. Within the convention of the still life, possessions staged against a flat backdrop supplant setting and suspend time—history and context fall away. A detached yet intimate format remains. The forms exist in the frame, but also rely on the viewer’s gaze for meaning. The photographs offer a place to mine interiority, to add experience and imagination.
The still life prioritizes and emphasizes a particular vision with a close lens upon a selection of objects. The Dutch still life tradition offers examples of laid tables with everyday vessels, foods and flowers against a flattened, usually dark background. I draw from this tradition to closely examine possessions taken for granted and to emphasize the mundane. I employ the condensed depth of field found in traditional still life, but further alter perspective with shifts in scale, and sight line. The studio permits experimentation with the distinctive lighting and flattening characteristic of a scanner bed, exposures using foreshortened angles and placement of objects on photosensitive paper in the darkroom to consider contour alone revealed in black and white.
The still life provides the viewer with a lens to regard attention and value. As perception changes, audiences become less ready to accept the vintage toy as a plaything— possibility and nuance enter and erode a fixed interpretation. Without context, the toys become signs, directing our thoughts to conflict, futility, acculturation, and mores.