I graduated with distinction in Photography in all 16 modules undertaken at Solihull College in 2012 and I am also the proud recipient of the Pearson Award for outstanding student in this field. I briefly returned to the college to teach part time. I specialise in still life photography influenced and based upon the works of the Dutch master painters of the 16th and 17th century. After moving house, I am currently building a home studio at my new location where I intend to expand this body of work further.
Dutch old master paintings have long been appreciated for their beauty, evocative atmosphere, great craftsmanship and appeal to the heart and intellect. It has become increasingly clear in recent decades, however, that seemingly secular paintings from the 17th century often express more than a mere imitation of reality and their function was not purely decorative.
Of the many off-shoots from the still life genre in 17th century, Vanitas in my opinion has to be one of the most engaging. The reasons for the prevalence of these type of still life pieces at that time were dependent upon social, environmental, political and economic circumstances and perhaps too in depth to be covered here. However the symbolism involved was often used, somewhat bleakly, to remind the viewer of the brevity of life and the certainty of death. The origins of the term date back to the Latin biblical aphorism ‘vantias vanitatum omnia vanitas’ (Ecclesiates 1:2), ‘Vanity of vanities; all is vanity’. In this sense of the word vanity means both ‘empty’ and ‘frivolous’ and refers to the meaningless of earthly life. This message was of moralistic importance to the Dutch who in this period were the richest nation in the world. Their Calvinistic church were iconoclasts who had banned religious painting and so to the art loving nations’ prosperous excesses were in a small way kept in track by the messages gleaned through such paintings.
A visual vocabulary of symbolic meaning attached to objects and their placement in these compositions did indeed move these pieces of work to beyond just that of being decorative and it is perhaps this element that drew me further towards the subject. The Dutch masters had such skill in creating extraordinary verisimilitude in their work that almost brings a photographic quality to some pieces. It is this quality which I want to try and bridge four hundred year old subject matter through a modern medium.