Thursday, February 18, 2010

Photography Assignment #5 ~ Still Life

A still life is a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subjects. Common subjects are everyday items which may be natural or man made, like food, flowers, plants, drinking glasses, books, jewelry, coins, etc., and are arranged in an artificial setting. Still life works give the artist creative license to arrange design elements within composition purposefully, unlike landscapes or portraits.

As with all photographic techniques and styles, attention to lighting is absolutely critical. When photographing still life, there is the potential for a boring image. Shadows and highlights add drama and emphasis.

Bread & Fruit

Still life art usually isn't just a bunch of inanimate objects thrown together. Still life art often contains symbolism relating to the objects depicted, often religious or allegorical. This was part of the challenge of this assignment.

Bread, in its many forms, is among the most popular foods in the world. In various cultures it is a symbol of fertility, birth, life, death, and more. It can be a peace offering and when we "Break bread," we usually are meeting someone new often over a nibble or two.

Apples appear in many folk stories and religious traditions, often as a mystical, enchanted, or forbidden fruit.

Oranges are symbols of love and marriage. Brides traditionally wear orange blossoms in their hair or carry them in their bouquet at their wedding.

Bananas, not surprisingly, are symbols of fertility, potency, and prosperity.

As a tool, a knife can be a symbol of utility. Depicted here it was used to cut the bread, and therefore was useful. Knives can also be defensive or offensive weapons. In defense, it can save lives and in the wrong hands it can take them. In this case, the blade of this knife is pointed at the food, away from the viewer as a sign of peace. Additionally, the bread is on the lighter side of the image while the knife is in the shadows on the darker side. The knife is also separated from the food, but still close-by.

A note: Because of the low light and the brightness of the bread, it took a bit of playing with the white balance to get this picture right but it was totally worth it. Many of the photos turned out too yellow, this one was perfect.


  1. There you go, delving into food photography! I enjoy studying still life paintings at museums and of course art books. It gives us a sense of composition and lighting. Good to know the symbolism behind the scenes.

  2. Since it is the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.............................................

  3. Yeah, I've been noticing the themes in my blog lately have been winter and food. Winter is making me want to cook and eat food! I'm ready for spring :)