On Reflection: Week 10, Module Two

Dutch photographer Bas Meeuws specialises in creating floral still-life images in the style of the 17th century paintings.

Each still-life is carefully assembled, flower by flower, from a library of individually photographed flowers. This faithfully recreates the method of 17th century artists, van Oosterwijck for example, who were denied access to real flowers due to their excessively high cost and consequently painted from tulip books which were widely available at the time.

Where Meeuws’ differs from Dutch 17th century art is in the use of lighting.

Meeuws’ art employs quite harsh artificial lighting which is in contrast with the soft natural light employed by artists such as Rachel Ruysch. Meeuws still makes effective use of light and shade to create a sense of depth, and to separate the subject from its environment whilst emphasising colour and texture. But is something lacking in these images?

Quite clearly, Meeuws images have visual appealing. I wonder, however, how much more appealing Meeuws’ images would be if the lighting was softer and consequently they had a more painterly appearance?

And this leads me very nicely onto the story of the great diffuser caper.

I can never quite make my mind up as to whether it is harder to control natural light or artificial light. The easiest one always seems to be whichever one I am not working with at the time.

The past two weeks have brought some interesting challenges. Speaking from a still-life point of view, sometimes it’s possible to work with whatever natural lighting is available and make the subject “fit” in to it to achieve the desired effect – perhaps with just a minor tweak here and there.

But what about when the subject, the environment and the lighting won’t work together to achieve a particular aesthetic, at least not without major modification?

Then we are into shaping light.

And this is where diffusers come into it.

Various types of translucent paper, enough different kinds of textiles to make the studio look like the Old Bazaar in Cairo, masking tape, packing tape, Sellotape, blue tack, white tack, (don’t mention the glue) … …

Ultimately, I was able to rig something that was quite successful, I was pleased with the results (just don’t make any sudden movements should it all come crashing down).

What’s successful? Well, it has to (relatively) easy to use, don’t want it taking hours to set up and/or take down, it has to allow me to achieve the desired effect, and something which to me is essential but which is quite often overlooked, it has to be repeatable – if it isn’t repeatable, it isn’t controlling light, it’s blagging it.

For now, I have my method, it is fairly easy to set up but whether it is “robust” is another question, it does allow me to achieve the desired effect, and it is repeatable.

So, the next step is to design something which is much more robust.

Feedback from the (dreaded) video presentation was very encouraging. Again, as previously stated, it’s so often the case in life that the thought of doing something is much worse than the reality.

Consequently, I feel that I am in a much stronger position, not only in terms of the forthcoming Critical Review, but also looking ahead to future video presentations – success leads to success.

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