For an artist, ‘still-life’ means pictures of flowers, fruit or (sometimes) skulls. For a commercial photographer it usually means product photography – packshots. Just because they’re shot in a studio, though, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily stay still for very long . . .
I’ve done a lot of packshots, and a few of them are here. Whenever it’s possible, I try to do more than just a straightforward photograph of the object. I’ve been lucky to have a number of clients who encourage creativity in their publicity material, and for the Offshore Installation specification documents I tried to give them the form of an oil or gas platform. Likewise, I wanted to make the Ship Classification books look as if they were actually moving through the sea.
I often use studio still-lifes in my designs for theatre posters. For ‘Streetcar’ I wanted to show the macho violence of Stanley Kowalski’s life, and how it destroys the memories of the antebellum Southern mansion where Blanche DuBois grew up. Arthur Miller’s ‘The Price’ is about two brothers arguing over their dead father’s belongings. I found the old clock springs in a horological shop and was struck by how they could symbolise the tensions between the (ageing) men.
‘Biloxi Blues’ is about young GI recruits during World War Two, undergoing basic training but also learning about comradeship – and sex. There are two women in the cast, so I wanted to explore the phallic imagery of both lipstick and rifle bullets.
Sometimes the same ideas recur (or can be re-used) in very different projects. An article I illustrated for the UK Medical Research Council was about Professor Mark Johnson’s research into the perception of shapes, especially those shapes that constitute a face, in very young infants. For ‘The Ugly One’, a play about a spectacularly ugly designer of electrical equipment who has plastic surgery to make him handsome – and whose surgeon then performs the same treatment on everyone else so he’s surrounded by lookalikes – I found an electrical socket connector that could be lit to become . . . a face.
If you’d like to see more examples of my theatre posters, you can find them on the ‘Theatre Posters’ page of my theatre site at www.seeingstages.com