Morris, 2017. Untitled #1
Morris, 2017. Untitled #2
Morris, 2017. Untitled # 3
Morris, 2017. Untitled # 4
Morris, 2017. Untitled # 5
Overall, the narrative is of the struggle for an athlete in preparation for competition to maintain a strict ‘clean’ diet, and the desire to consume ‘comfort’ foods as the body depletes stores of fat to fuel the training – cravings.
In support of the main subjects, a variety of tapes, strappings and topical treatments together with a selection of exercise manuals tell the story of an athlete in training for competition. Selective focus leads the viewer’s attention to the main subject, a Black Forest muffin, Jelly Babies, or some chocolate eclairs – items to be consumed as a weekly treat, perhaps part of a ‘cheat’ meal taken as a reward for the effort invested in training, and also to maintain a link with reality. A sheet from a tear-off calendar indicates the dates on which the food items were consumed.
The relationship between the subjects makes reference to an effective diet itself being a relationship: that of a careful balance between exercise and calorific intake.
Technically all five images are well exposed, having good dynamic range with retention of details in both shadows and highlights.
A natural vignette which results from the fall-off of the natural light used to light the various scenes adds to the aesthetic appeal and works well with the black and white images – together creating and enhancing a sense of a drama.
Furthermore, black and white images of food are extremely uncommon and as a consequence this series of images, being a significant departure from the way other contemporary food photographer’s present images, is quite unique. I feel that the monochrome treatment brings a timelessness to the images in addition to focusing the viewer’s gaze on the content and meaning.
The five images follow the same simple formula – a book, supporting props and a main subject. Something familiar, something shared helps ease the viewer into the images whilst providing continuity throughout the series. Variety is provided by the way the elements are arranged – something different in each image to hold the viewer’s gaze. Elements which bleed out of the image create intrigue – suggesting that this scene is only part of a bigger story.
But what could I do differently? Would retaining colour make the image stronger? Could a different composition alter the strength of the image? How can this composition be described? What could be changed, in terms of the subjects, to change the strength of the image?
Images were produced and evaluated in colour, and it was felt that, as a series, black and white had greater aesthetic appeal.
Different combinations of props were tried with each main subject, in different compositions – initially on paper in the form of an Excel spreadsheet ‘storyboard’ before being refined during shooting. With regard to the main subjects, however, these are fixed – change these and the project theme loses its integrity and purpose.
Using a storyboard to plan out the complete series of images proved very beneficial – and provided a way of getting deeper into the heart of the images. I also feel that investigating the use of the visual narrative helped in the successful design of these images. Consequently, I aim to apply these concepts to the remaining images in this series, and also to future projects.
With regard to the visual narrative itself, the images serve a visual anthropological purpose (an area I am becoming increasingly interested in), documenting one aspect of the athlete’s diet. The images also make reference to ‘clean’ eating as a concept – with arguments both for and against this form of diet being topical.
In terms of describing the composition, shooting at a wide aperture places everything except the primary subject out of focus, producing an attractive bokeh – this is the compositional concept of simplification.
The main subject in each image, the obvious point of interest, is placed off-centre, with satellite objects providing balance and further interest. The space between objects varies in both size and shape, also creating interest. Where the primary subject is a group, a triangular presentation creates a sense of stability and strength.
When finalised, the series will comprise 18 images in total. These five images represent those which have been produced to date. These are strong images which work together well as a series.
In summary, the intention was to produce a series of still life images which individually carry a message and together form a narrative whilst having both identity and integrity as works of art in their own right. Czech photographer Josef Sudek produced many beautiful monochrome images which featured ordinary objects photographed in an extraordinary way. It was also an objective to explore Sudek’s methods in using natural light to create the characteristic aesthetic of his images. I think these images are a significant move forward in terms of my understanding of both his techniques and the rationale behind his work.
Have I been successful in capturing light, as an entity with a presence of its own, in a Sudek-esque manner? Have I been successful in recreating Sudek’s aesthetic?
You decide …
Josef Sudek, 1956. Still Life after Caravaggio, Variation 1