|The mantelpiece six years ago, when my friend Denise was visiting with her Nikon 8800. An accumulation of souvenirs ready to become Nature Morte. Taken deliberately in grayscale.|
Through a half century of teaching art I have learned that, at least in America, young people have trouble understanding that works of art need not signify or suggest or teach that which verbal language does perfectly well. Of course there are images, including some great ones, such as Michelangelo's of Creation in the Sistine Chapel, and some painful ones, such as Eugene Smith's, that leave much less license for kidding oneself than reportorial language usually does. What I am saying is only that the genre of Nature Morte is full of meaning, but the meaning is gained only from looking at it meditatively (if I may use that word) and enjoying it visually. I think that neuroscience is advancing in helping us to understand these distinctions, but on the internet one finds that almost everyone is regarding visual art as mere symbols or illustrations alone. It is not that Still Life needs to work in terms of abstraction, though the young Paul Strand showed that photographs could succeed as abstract works without compromising the medium of photography, and there are plenty of abstracted photographs that are not Still Life.
Anyway, I was thinking, looking at my more advanced miniature camera with all its zoom and megapixels, how it would perform in a Game of Nature Morte, much more complicated than simply zooming at a construction crane on a bright day. Already I have an entry that proves, once again, that vision rather than tools is the critical thing.
Though I wanted to participate, I didn't want to be limited to my own vision, so I invited a number of friends, who know what Nature Morte / Still Life is, to send me some of theirs. I want to emphasize, as I multi-task (blog composition and PGA golf), that this is not a competition. At least two of my chosen friends are better photographers than I am, but no matter: it is just to get varied vision that I have prevailed upon all. I am eager to credit each one or to guarantee each contributor's anonymity. Though it will be impossible to post every image in the blog, I shall post in a Public Picasa album all that I may and keep in a Private album any that the photographer prefers to keep private, though, N.B., indecency is certainly private and practically unknown in the genre of Still Life (though Fur and Feathers is important in Netherlandish Still Life, to avoid offending many animal lovers, I won't use them here, and bouquets of flowers similarly are hard to handle, since the criteria of specimen-perfection and the artist's vision can need more discussion than a simple game with miniature cameras can encompass). I have no intention of judging anybody's photography, even my own, though a fundamental question is whether the intention was Nature Morte.
Contributions dribble in; friends may be shy or busy. So I'll start with the simplest category.
I. Photographs in the Tradition
II. Photographs to compete with Modernism
III. Photographs easy to interpret differently
IV. Photographs that are carefully arranged, either for commercial work or surreal intention; they may rely on the Nature Morte tradition without being part of it.
I sent my friends this list of criteria: