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HomeContentsThemes > Still life


11.01   Still life: Introduction
11.02   Still life: Understanding the term
11.03   Early still life photographs
Techniques and processes
11.04   Salt prints: Still life
11.05   Carte de visites: Objects
11.06   Cabinet cards: Objects
11.07   Gelatin silver prints: Still life
Fruit and vegetables
11.08   Apples
11.09   Pears
11.10   Still life: Chairs
11.11   Still life: Kitchen
11.12   Still life: Eggs
11.13   Still life: Textiles and lace
11.14   Henry Fox Talbot: Bust of Patroclus
11.15   Juan Laurent: Arms and armour
11.16   Charles and Jane Clifford: Armour
11.17   Adolphe Braun: Flower studies
11.18   Roger Fenton: Still lifes
11.19   Edward Weston: Vegetables
11.20   Edward Weston: Shells
This theme includes example sections and will be revised and added to as we proceed. Suggestions for additions, improvements and the correction of factual errors are always appreciated. 
Status: Collect > Document > Analyse > Improve
11.01   Still life >  Still life: Introduction 
Because of the links with commercial photography still life has long tended to be a poor relation of the major themes but this does not do justice to the photographs produced. Since the earliest days of photography in the late 1830's one of the principal uses that it was put to was the recording of everyday objects and the placing of them into artistic settings. 
11.02   Still life >  Still life: Understanding the term 
The origins of still life is firmly routed in ancient art with the carvings and paintings of everyday objects on the walls of Egyptian tombs and recorded on the ash-protected frescos of Pompeii and Herculeneam. Early Roman wall paintings included two dimensional imitations of shelves containing food and artifacts, the generally used term for this is Trompe l'Oeil - a French expression meaning to trick the eye. Art of this type was generally held in low esteem as it was seen as copying from nature and therefore lacking in creativity - a view that was supported by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History of the first century A.D.
The English term for still life may have its origins in the Dutch term still-leven and both terms imply that life is still present even if it is stationary. In Southern Europe the same style of art is called dead nature, as in the Italian natura morta or the French nature morte which has a rather different connotation. Although symbolic inanimate objects were regularly incorporated into paintings from the Renaissance there was a major shift in still life painting in Holland in the early years of the seventeenth century. It may be that Protestant Holland was well suited to a break from the stiffling religious and historical painting traditions that dominated Catholic Europe. When in 1606 Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625) painted his Bouquet, now in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana (Milan), the abundant flowers were the center of attention with little else to diminish the impact. The canvas was painted over an extended period to show flowers from different seasons in a manner that could not be achieved in nature. 
11.03   Still life >  Early still life photographs 
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In the earliest era of photography the 'stillness' of a still life was essential as the longer time required to create an image necessitated it. The control of the overall composition and lighting also made it a means of experimenting a reduced number of variables. Louis Jacques-Mandé Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot both took still lifes in the late 1830s and it was the obvious subject because of a lack of mobility and the long exposures required by the early daguerreotype and calotype processes. Far later Edward Steichen sometimes used exposures as long as 36 hours to capture the subject to the level of detail he required. The choices of what the early photographers chose to photograph are indicative both of their lifestyles and their need to publicize the process to the influential people of the day. Given this requirement it is perhaps not surprising that they selected sculptures with classical themes and arrangements that appeared to come from painting.
Louis Jacques-Mandé Daguerre in his first surviving 1837 daguerreotype appropriately titled Still Life (now with the Société Française de Photographie, Paris) selected a window setting as bright light was essential. He included a bass relief, several cherub like plaster casts, a rams head, a framed picture and some fabric. Daguerre had an artistic background and his fame prior to photography was in dioramas so it was natural that he should select objects that reflected his interests.
William Henry Fox Talbot likewise used objects that illustrated the everyday life of his estate at Laycock Abbey. His salted paper prints made from calotype negatives sometimes hinted at a life outside the photograph in the way that a composed set of plaster casts does not. For example his photograph The Open Door (1843) shows a broom made from twigs leaning against a doorway as if showing a task soon to be or recently completed. Nobody could pass through the wooden door without removing the broom. A still life can therefore be not only about the objects and people seen but also about those not in the image forcing us to ask questions about the image.
Hermann Krone in his 1853 Still Life of the Washerwoman (Munich, Deutsches Museum) showed the variety of tubs and water containers used with clothes draped over them all set against a dark fabric background. This is not a found moment but a studio shot of the utensils of everyday existence. 
Techniques and processes 
11.04   Still life >  Salt prints: Still life 
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11.05   Still life >  Carte de visites: Objects 
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11.06   Still life >  Cabinet cards: Objects 
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11.07   Still life >  Gelatin silver prints: Still life 
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Fruit and vegetables 
11.08   Still life >  Apples 
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"“First I shake the whole [Apple] tree, that the ripest might fall. Then I climb the tree and shake each limb, and then each branch and then each twig, and then I look under each leaf."
Martin Luther (German priest and scholar. 1483-1546) 
   Still life apples 
View exhibition 
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11.09   Still life >  Pears 
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"It is commonly said by farmers, that a good pear or apple costs no more time or pains to rear, than a poor one; so I would have no work of art, no speech, or action, or thought, or friend, but the best."
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. “Nominalist and Realist,” Essays, Second Series (1844). 
   Still life pears 
View exhibition 
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11.10   Still life >  Still life: Chairs 
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   Still life chairs 
View exhibition 
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11.11   Still life >  Still life: Kitchen 
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11.12   Still life >  Still life: Eggs 
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The egg is so fundamental to cuisine, has symbolism in the bringing of life, and the shape has such harmony that it is not surprising that it has been significant throughout the history of still life photography.[1]
An odd case of a photograph of an egg was recorded in Scientific American in 1889:
A curious instance of twins, in case of a hen’s egg, is reported to us from Crawfordsville, Ga. Mr. C. G. Moore of that city sent us a photograph of an egg that was served on his table and which apparently was perfectly normal, but which when broken open was found to contain a perfectly formed egg with a complete shell within the outer shell. Mr. Moore kindly had a photograph taken for our use, but we do not publish it, aswe were unable to reproduce with sufficient accuracy the pecuiiar formation of the egg.[2]
11.13   Still life >  Still life: Textiles and lace 
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11.14   Still life >  Henry Fox Talbot: Bust of Patroclus 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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H. Fox Talbot, The Pencil of Nature, (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1844)
Statues, busts, and other specimens of sculpture, are generally well represented by the Photographic Art; and also very rapidly, in consequence of their whiteness.
These delineations are susceptible of an almost unlimited variety: since in the first place, a statue may be placed in any position with regard to the sun, either directly opposite to it, or at any angle: the directness or obliquity of the illumination causing of course an immense difference in the effect. And when a choice has been made of the direction in which the sun's rays shall fall, the statue may be then turned round on its pedestal, which produces a second set of variations no less considerable than the first. And when to this is added the change of size which is produced in the image by bringing the Camera Obscura nearer to the statue or removing it further off, it becomes evident how very great a number of different effects may be obtained from a single specimen of sculpture.
With regard to many statues, however, a better effect is obtained by delineating them in cloudy weather than in sunshine. For, the sunshine causes such strong shadows as sometimes to confuse the subject. To prevent this, it is a good plan to hold a white cloth on one side of the statue at a little distance to reflect back the sun's rays and cause a faint illumination of the parts which would otherwise be lost in shadow.
11.15   Still life >  Juan Laurent: Arms and armour 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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11.16   Still life >  Charles and Jane Clifford: Armour 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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11.17   Still life >  Adolphe Braun: Flower studies 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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Adolphe Braun[3] was a textile designer who at first used photography as a visual aid. Taking up photography in 1853 he took a series of 300 flower studies. The intention here was not botanical accuracy but seeking artistic inspiration from nature. He went on to create one of the largest companies[4] for the reproduction of artworks.[5] 
11.18   Still life >  Roger Fenton: Still lifes 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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11.19   Still life >  Edward Weston: Vegetables 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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11.20   Still life >  Edward Weston: Shells 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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On 14 February 1927 Edward Weston was introduced to Canadian artist Henrietta Shore (1880-1963)[6] and she is mentioned in his Daybooks.[7] Weston had recently returned from Mexico where he had reassessed his photographic work and broken from Pictorialism seeking the clarity of Modernism and observing beauty within man made and natural forms. There was mutual admiration between Weston and Henrietta Shore as they both appreciated each other's art.
The chambered nautilus shell featured in the paintings of Henrietta Shore and inspired Weston.[8] He photographed shells during 1927 striving to remove all background detail to concentrate solely on the form without distraction. This required long exposures and carefully contrived balancing acts which were prone to disaster when there was any vibration at all.
One of these two new shells when stood on end, is like a magnolia blossom unfolding. The difficulty has been to make it balance on end and not cut of that important end, nor show an irrelevant base. I may have solved the problem by using another shell for the chalice, but I had the Devil’s own time trying to balance those two shells together. In the first negative , they slipped by just a hair's breadth, - and after a three hour exposure! The second attempt is technically good.[9]
Weston's shell photographs have also carried multiple meanings - they are nautical remnants and "sensual biomorphic emblems".[10] Different people have described them in different ways, René d’Harnoncourt, who later became the director of The Museum of Modern Art, described them as “erotic”, photographer Tina Modotti claimed that they “made me think of lilies and embryos.” Artist Jean Charlot saw them as inspiration in perceiving the worlds as “known elements in unknown quantities.[11] It is this ability of a single form to take us into imaginative realms of analogy beyond the obvious that gives them almost a totemic quality. 

  1. Λ Michele Auer & Jean Streff,1999, Histoires d'Oeufs: A travers 300 Photographies de 1840 a Nos Jours, (Ides et calendes) 
  2. Λ 6 July 1889, Scientific American, vol. LXI, no.1, p. 5 
  3. Λ For Adolphe Braun - Christian Kempf, 1994, Adolphe Braun et la photographie 1812-1877, (Lucigraphie); Mary Bergstein, 2000, <>Image and enterprise: The photographs of Adolphe Braun, (London: Thames & Hudson) 
  4. Λ The firm of Adolphe Braun in Switzerland was one of the leading establishments for the photographic copying of artworks in the nineteenth century. An account of an 1873 visit to the works was published in The British Journal of Photography on 23rd October 1874.
    In 1876, the year before Adolphe Braun’s death, the firm of Adolphe Braun et Cie (1876-1889) was established and his son Gaston Braun continued the business. The firm continued under different names - Braun Clément & Cie (1889-1910) and Braun et Cie (1910-). 
  5. Λ Charlène Sébert, 2010, La reproduction photographique d'œuvres d'art au xixe siècle. L'exemple de la maison Braun & Cie, avec huit albums conservés au musée d'Orsay, (Mémoire de Recherche, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, sous la direction de Mme Claire Barbillon) 
  6. Λ Roger Alkin, Winter 1992, "Henrietta Shore and Edward Weston", American art, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 42-61 
  7. Λ Nancy Newhall (ed.), 1973, The Daybooks of Edward Weston: Volume 1, Mexico, (Millerton, NY: Aperture); Nancy Newhall, (ed.), 1973, The Daybooks of Edward Weston: Volume 2, California, (Millerton, NY: Aperture) 
  8. Λ Nancy Newhall, (ed.), 1973, The Daybooks of Edward Weston: Volume 2, California, (Millerton, NY: Aperture), pp. 20-21, Undated (after 7 May 1927):
    I think the Chambered Nautilus has one of the most exquisite forms, to say nothing of color and texture, in nature. I was awkened to shells by the painting of Henry. [Henrietta Shore]
  9. Λ Nancy Newhall, (ed.), 1973, The Daybooks of Edward Weston: Volume 2, California, (Millerton, NY: Aperture), pp. 18-19, 28 April 1927 
  10. Λ Phillips, New York, "Important Photographs from the collection of Dr. Anthony Terrana", 2 & 3 April 2013, Lot: 14, Comment from a photographic specialist. 
  11. Λ Phillips, New York, "Important Photographs from the collection of Dr. Anthony Terrana", 2 & 3 April 2013, Lot: 14, Comment from a photographic specialist.


HomeContents > Further research

General reading 
Auer, Michele & Streff, Jean, 1999, Histoires d'Oeufs: A travers 300 Photographies de 1840 a Nos Jours, (Ides et calendes) isbn-10: 2825801410 [Δ
Ebert-Schifferer, Sybille, 1998, Still Life: A History, (New York: Harry N. Abrams) isbn-10: 0810941902 isbn-13: 978-0810941908 [Δ
Martineau, Paul, 2010, Still Life in Photography, (J. Paul Getty Museum) isbn-10: 1606060333 isbn-13: 978-1606060339 [Δ
Readings on, or by, individual photographers 
Chema Madoz 
Casani, Borji & Madoz, Chema, 2006, Chema Madoz 2000-2005, (Aldeasa / Fundación Telefónica) isbn-10: 848003582X isbn-13: 978-8480035828 [Δ
Madoz, Chema, 2001, Chema Madoz: Objetos 1990-1999, (Actar / Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofia And Aldeasa) isbn-10: 8480031867 isbn-13: 978-8480031868 [Δ
Madoz, Chema, 2009, Chema Madoz: Obras Maestras, (La Fábrica) isbn-10: 8415303386 isbn-13: 978-8415303381 [Δ
Madoz, Chema, 2010, Chema Madoz: PHotoBolsillo, (La Fábrica) isbn-13: 978-8492498628 [Foreword by Fernando Castro Flórez] [Δ
Madoz, Chema, 2012, Chema Madoz: PHotoBolsillo, (La Fábrica) isbn-13: 978-8415303626 [Foreword by Fernando Castro Flórez] [Δ
Madoz, Chema, 2012, Madoz, Chema, (La Fábrica Editorial) isbn-10: 841530367X isbn-13: 978-8415303671 [Δ
Madoz, Chema & Caujolle, Christian, 2005, Chema Madoz, (Assouline) isbn-13: 978-2843231544 [Δ
Madoz, Chema & Rubio, Olivia Maria, 2010, Masterpieces, (La Fábrica) isbn-10: 8492498706 isbn-13: 978-8492498703 [Δ
Irving Penn 
Penn, Irving, 2001, Still Life: By Irving Penn, (Boston: Bulfinch Press) isbn-10: 0500542481 isbn-13: 978-0500542484 [Δ
If you feel this list is missing a significant book or article please let me know - Alan - 
Robert Mapplethorpe: Statuary ... 

HomeContentsPhotographers > Photographers worth investigating

Walker Evans  (1903-1975) • Claus Goedicke  (1966-) • Jan Groover  (1943-2012) • Ernst Haas  (1921-1986) • David C. Halliday  (1958-) • Charles Jones  (1866-1959) • André Kertész  (1894-1985) • Kon Michiko  (1955-) • Rolf Koppel  (1937-) • Chema Madoz  (1958-) • Man Ray  (1890-1976) • Sergei Osmachkin  (1961-) • Olivia Parker  (1941-) • Laurie Simmons  (1949-) • Aaron Siskind  (1903-1991) • Frederick Sommer  (1905-1999) • Emmanuel Sougez  (1889-1972) • Edward Steichen  (1879-1973) • Henry Fox Talbot  (1800-1877) • Christian Vogt  (1946-) • Ion Zupcu  (1960-)
HomeThemes > Still life 
A wider gazeA closer lookRelated topics 
Photographing art - sculpture 

HomeContentsOnline exhibitions > Still life

Please submit suggestions for Online Exhibitions that will enhance this theme.
Alan -

Title | Lightbox | Checklist
Released (January 28, 2008)
ThumbnailRolf Koppel: Still lifes 
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Released (January 30, 2008)
ThumbnailRondal Partridge 
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Released (September 27, 2007)
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Released (December 19, 2006)
ThumbnailStill-life: Chairs 
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Released (January 10, 2008)
ThumbnailStill-life: Eggs 
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Released (July 13, 2008)
ThumbnailStill-life: Glassware 
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Released (April 15, 2012)

HomeVisual indexes > Still life

Please submit suggestions for Visual Indexes to enhance this theme.
Alan -

ThumbnailAlice Delarue: Still lifes 
ThumbnailAndré Kertész: Still lifes 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailEduard Isaac Asser: Still lifes 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailEdward Weston: Artichokes 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailEdward Weston: Cabbages 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailEdward Weston: Peppers 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailEdward Weston: Shells 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailHeinrich Kühn: Still lifes 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailHenri-Victor Regnault: Still Life: Cauldron, Pitcher, and Vegetables 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailHenry Fox Talbot: A Fruit Piece 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailHenry Fox Talbot: Textiles 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailJean-Baptiste Tournassoud: Still lifes 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailJohn Dillwyn Llewelyn: Still lifes 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailJohn Jonas Gruen: Still lifes 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailJosef Sudek: Glasses and bread 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailPaul Strand: Still Life with Pear and Bowls, Twin Lakes, Connecticut 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailPierre-Ambroise Richebourg: Arsenal de Tsarskoé-Sélo 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailRaphaël Dallaporta: Antipersonnel 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailRoger Fenton: Still lifes 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailSAFARA: Fabrication des casques de soldats 
ThumbnailThomas Smillie: Museum objects 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailHenry Fox Talbot - Linneaus Tripe - Giorgio Sommer - Sam Hood 
ThumbnailLinneaus Tripe - Thomas Rodger (attributed) - Giorgio Sommer 
ThumbnailSam Hood - Paul Strand - Heinrich Koch - Josef Sudek 
ThumbnailNature: Fauna: Hung game 
ThumbnailStill life: Arms and armour 
ThumbnailStill life: Books 
ThumbnailStill life: Cutlery: Forks 
ThumbnailStill life: Cutlery: Knives 
ThumbnailStill life: Cutlery: Spoons 
ThumbnailStill life: Eggs 
ThumbnailStill life: Examples 
ThumbnailStill life: Flowers 
ThumbnailStill life: Food 
ThumbnailStill life: Food: Eggs 
ThumbnailStill life: Fruit and vegetables 
ThumbnailStill life: Glassware 
ThumbnailStill life: Keys 
ThumbnailStill life: Memorials 
ThumbnailStill life: Models 
ThumbnailStill life: Objects 
ThumbnailStill life: Pottery, china, porcelain and ceramics 
ThumbnailAlbumen prints: Themes: Still life 
ThumbnailAutochromes: Themes: Still life 
ThumbnailCyanotypes: Themes: Objects 
ThumbnailCyanotypes: Themes: Textiles 
ThumbnailDaguerreotypes: Themes: Objects 
ThumbnailDaguerreotypes: Themes: Still life 
ThumbnailGelatin silver prints: Themes: Still life 
ThumbnailPhotogravures: Themes: Still-life 
ThumbnailSalt prints: Themes: Still life 
ThumbnailTintypes: Themes: Still life 
   Still thinking about these... 
ThumbnailFurniture: Chairs 
ThumbnailTextiles and lace 
Refreshed: 13 April 2014, 22:23
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