The Photo: Objective
Tuesday's Child Is Full of Grace
Our former house had a finished basement that we didn’t use very much, but I kind of miss it sometimes.
One thing I miss is that it only had teeny-tiny windows at the top of the walls. With the curtains drawn and the lights off it was a very dark space. For a self-taught photographer trying to learn how to work with light, it functioned very well as a studio. I haven’t had easy access to a dark space like that since then. (I could use our current basement but it’s a fairly moist, dank, unfinished space that isn’t a ton of fun to spend time in.)
There was a period of time where I was photographing household objects with a wireless flash set up in what had been a drop ceiling (some of the drop panels had been removed before we moved in), which made for some interesting lighting effects on various subjects. I also did a fair amount of experimentation with lighting in portraits. Some of my favorite images ever came out of that work—I’ve never quite been able to duplicate the mood in later attempts to shoot household objects of various kinds.
I’ve often said, not entirely facetiously, that I actually like one aspect of what Marx calls “commodity fetishism”—that sense of manufactured or made objects having a life of their own through the accumulated meanings we invest in them as we relate to them rather than the people who made the objects. At least some kinds of visual art depicting objects, whether in still-life compositions or otherwise, succeed in conveying that sense of aliveness and animation, and without the ethical problems that surround photography of people. I certainly felt I got some of that in this photo and several of the others in that series—but of course, some of that feeling is not the artistry of the photo itself but the craftwork of the person who made this toy.
One thing I will take credit for besides the lighting, though, is the decision to angle the photo slightly so that the toy stands up straight even though the base is at a very modest sort of Dutch angle—that kind of makes the image for me.