'Rushed breakfast', James Bessant Davies, 2020


The camera was invented in the beginning of the 1800s, and with this invention came a notable shift by artists across Europe. Suddenly any given moment could be captured and framed forever. There was a realisation of temporariness, that passing moments can never be regained.
Artists now returned to the medium of still life, a medium that although well endorsed in the 17th Century was now starting to go out of fashion. There was a clear pessimistic note within these later works. Skulls were a common item. If fruit was portrayed, the fruit was often portrayed with rot or the buzzing of flies.
This can be seen in the photographer Richard Fenton’s work: Still Life with Ivory Tankard and Fruit. Here he shows vast amounts tropical fruit on the brink of decay, their carcasses strewn with black rot.​​​​​​​

Roger Fenton's Still Life with Ivory Tankard and Fruit, about 1860.
Photograph: The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the National Media Museum

Other early photographers gained commissions not capturing landscapes, but capturing the faces and bodies of the dead, the images payed for by the wealthy as a token of what was.
I have chosen 'Still life with Salmon', a work by French artist Edouard Manet as a classical comparison. Here is depicted a side of salmon, placed on a strewn tablecloth in a restaurant. It is the remains of a meal, deemed unfit for eating. Placed next to it are bright yellow lemons, which have been squeezed and thrown un-lovingly to one side. It shows those Victorian themes of death and temporariness- the magnificent fish, one day swimming, the next caught, partly eaten and then discarded.

'Still life with Salmon', by Edouard Manet (1866)

My chosen contemporary artist is in a way, trying to capturing the same thing as Manet and Fenton. By using levitation in her photography, Dina Belenko is attempting to capture the temporariness of a moment, freezing foodstuffs mid-air, suspended by invisible wires. 
Belenko works within the world of food photography, capturing enticing morsels, working with manufactures to persuade punters to purchase this or that foodstuff. By transforming a stationary item into something with this much movement, manifold life is added, the moment is captured, and our inspiration (not to mention salivary glands) are kick started. 

Lift me up! By Dina Belenko.

Strangely both of these works greatly inspire me. From the pessimistic 'Still life with Salmon' to the perspective changing 'Lift me up!', there is, I feel, a great deal to be learnt. Time is fleeting, moments are constantly passing. The ability, nay responsibility to capture those moments lie squarely within the hands of the artist.
For my work, I would love to incorporate the methods used by Belenko in her work. She documents these methods and others in he blog which can be found her:
​​​​​​​In 1839, John Herschel, a prestigious astronomer, was trying to find a way to copy his notes. By covering paper with iron salts, Herschel created a paper that was sensitive to light, and anything that blocked the path of this light left imprints in the paper. Interestingly this is the first 'Photography' ever, Herschel coined the word, as well as negative, positive and snapshot. 
This paper was then used by botanists, wishing to document horticulture, and went on to create a version of the camera as we know it today. 

Herschel's Woman with harp- Early Cyanotype 

I decided to spend some time creating a cyanotypes. I arranged my items (Pictured below) on a sheet of contact paper, and exposed it for around 5 mins in the light outside. The sun was behind clouds, so the final effect is rather vague, ghostly even. I actually rather like my final image. I think it reflects the after-death themes portrayed in early, Victorian work.

Collection of Items to be used for Cyanotypes

Digital reproduction in Photoshop of Cyanotype.

Final Cyanotype- 'Love, Nature.'

​​​​​​​The last stage of my project is to create a final image, capturing still life at it's finest. This work is going to be my response of another work by Dina Belenko- 'Dynamic Balance'. It captures a breakfast scene with falling liquids.

'Dynamic Balance', by Dina Belenko

I did a few preliminary sketches to plan the image. Using the rule of thirds I was going to have the main scene (Above table level) at the top of the image, and the other two thirds to be dedicated to the falling liquid.  
Lighting and Scene Setup
Attaching glass to chopstick
Attaching glass to chopstick
The full scene.
The full scene.
Positioning and lighting.
Positioning and lighting.
Allocation of props.
Allocation of props.
To create the scene I used a wooden table, and a black tablecloth to create the backdrop. I positioned my kitchen items at the front of the table, creating depth against the background. To give the scene some colour I placed a pot of red geraniums at towards the rear. 
Using a glue gun I attached a glass to chopstick which was in turn attached to a woodblock to create a makeshift support. This was placed at the bottom of the scene, ready to receive milk.
I wanted an even 'soft light effect', and positioned two key LED light panels angled in from the side close to the subject, one covered with a softbox, and one with (somewhat less effective) tracing paper. 
I had to experiment with camera settings. The shutter had to be open for long enough to let enough light in whilst avoiding blur from the quickly moving liquids. I had to balance this with the aperture which I needed to keep as wide as possible to capture all droplets within the field of view. I also kept my ISO as low as possible to avoid degrading the quality.
My final camera settings were: 1/160, f6.3, ISO 640. I used a (full frame) 50mm lens.
Milk Contact Sheet
Milk Contact Sheet
Coffee Contact Sheet
Coffee Contact Sheet
Lots of images were unusable due to badly timed shutter operation or even bad pouring. I selected the images with the largest splashes, ideally with the trail of the pour from the jug invisible. 
I accidently let the jug get into one of the images of coffee pouring, but in the end I actually used this one, I felt it was more effective as you could see the origins of the trail.
Once I had selected the my set of images, I opened them in Lightroom for Colour Grading and adjustments. My white balance was slightly too warm when shooting, and I had purposely under-exposed to avoid using a high ISO. These were the first things that I adjusted, and then added clarity, and did some basic colour edits prioritising red and purple. 
Once I had the image looking as I wanted I created a profile, and applied it to the other images.
I then went over the black sections of the images individually with a low-exposure enhancement brush to ensure there was a true black background.
Once the pictures had been graded in Lightroom, I opened them as layers in Photoshop. Using the eraser tool I removed the top half of the image with milk,  revealing the coffee underneath. I then used a black paintbrush with 50% hardness to tidy up the background and remove the droplets that I didn't want. I also used this to remove the bamboo support from the glass. 
Following this I opened the composition in Lightroom for some final adjustments. I noticed that the whites were rather dull, and also chose to increase the clarity, and bring out the reds.  
Final Image and evaluation
Dina Belenko's original work
Dina Belenko's original work
My finished response
My finished response
Thinking back to the side of salmon and rotten fruit featured at the top of this page, the changes are pronounced, but the similarities are visible. Whilst the earlier work emphasises the temporary state of food; By showing liquids being poured away, the above work illustrates how wasteful we are in the 21st century.
The temporariness of the food-stuff remains, but not rotting own their own accord, but because they have been carelessly wasted by us.  
On a daily basis we are caught up in tangible goods, immersed in technology. Our trail of ever-lasting plastic removes even the idea of temporal being. As hard as we try, we can never live in the moment, but instead only think of what is to come. 
And that is what I think this work says. Whilst the image has been frozen, so much is happening. It speaks of carelessness. Disaster. The bustling, forward moving nature of life. 
 Life, Frozen. And then sped up again.
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