Real Life Still Life 1

I’ve been playing with taking the idea of still life photography outside into nature and will sketch out the basic idea here.

I’ve enjoyed still life paintings and photographs for a long time.  After reading Keven Best’s “Still Life Photography” ( I wanted to do some still life work of my own.  Here’s an example, a “found” scene shot in a derelict camping trailer in the woods near Bainbridge, IN.


I hadn’t thought about it when doing this shot, but it has a message, much as the Dutch masters offered.  In this case the title might be “Death by two means”.

There are problems with doing what I call “Real Life Still Life”.  One is that I don’t have and don’t particularly like lighting equipment.  Another is I don’t like to rearrange objects and in the prototypical still life artists may spend days rearranging the subjects.  I will photograph a scene from various angles but I seldom rearrange it in any way.  About as far as I will go is to move a flower from behind the leaves of another or perhaps do a little weeding to remove obstructions from in front of the main subject.  I will remove distractions from the image in post processing but I seldom add anything to it other than texture or painterly effects.  I had once set up a shot using a tripod down low to shoot a crocus and had to go in the house for some reason.  I left the set up in place and when I came back a neighborhood dog, an art critic, had added a “posterior riposte” to the scene between the camera and the flower.  I altered the scene by picking up the dog’s comment with a plastic bag before shooting.  I was glad to see that neither the camera nor the tripod were wet.

So I mostly shoot outside and I shoot “found” objects.  This puts a crimp in doing traditional still life photography.  To see what the boundaries are on shooting still life, I looked up still life on Google.  The definition I like best comes from the Tate Museum in London:

“…the subject matter of a still life painting or sculpture is anything that does not move or is dead.”(

I think we can stretch the definition to include photographs.  If we ignore what still life art has traditionally involved, this broad definition allows for many new possibilities.  I think this image meets the Tate definition.  It also meets my need for a simple composition which most still lifes are not.


Of course there will be resistance to what I am calling a variety of still life.  This image may meet the Tate’s technical definition but it doesn’t fit the common conception of what a still life is.  My objective in part is to stimulate discussion about widening boundaries and giving a fresh look to old and valued concepts.

I’m looking forward to pursuing this line of work and I’ll be putting up more images.  Comments are welcome.


12 thoughts on “Real Life Still Life 1

  1. Good idea, Barry. I like your still life from nature. Viewed through a non-still life lens, though, I see something more dynamic and alive — a space alien emerging from the murky surface of planet Zorkon 😊

  2. Thank you Barry, for your ideas. I too prefer “found” objects or scenes. I think such an approach shows a kind of reverence for the natural world (including unintentional acts of humans and dogs), with the artist’s input limited to the usual observational choices. This isn’t to disparage the more active efforts of the more common approach to still life. It just seems a little weird to move dead, unmoving things around to the “right ” arrangement.

  3. I love this Barry~My objective in part is to stimulate discussion about widening boundaries and giving a fresh look to old and valued concepts.

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