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 . . .
And ‘still-life’ covers many possibilities. Is this picture of Cath Laffan’s jewellery a still life – or a portrait of the model? Maybe these photos should be on the ‘People’ page . . .
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.
Like the clock springs, all metallic objects are interesting and challenging to photograph – cold or hot . . .