A Fleeting Life and a Beautiful Death


An interview with Einar Sira

“Post Vitam will stay with me as long as I can continue making photography”

Einar Sira caught our attention back during Life Framer Edition III with his series ‘Post Vitam’. His gorgeous, glassy still lives of dead animals, plants and birds are eye-catching – imbued with gentle detail and harmonious colour palettes – and challenging too; they reflect on life and death, the inexorable decay of all things living, and the fleeting and brutal beauty associated with that.

Sira’s is a project where working process is fundamental – from selection, preparation and arrangement of his props, control of lighting, through to post-processing, paper selection, printing and framing. We thought we’d ask him about his methods, and his responses are illuminating.

‘Post Vitam’ deals with powerful and emotive themes, and so I’m intrigued as to how the project developed. Can you shed some light?

I spent many years doing making photographs only for myself – as a kind of therapy – focusing on small details, mainly of birds.
The project started one Sunday morning – I went out in my garden and found this dead house sparrow. For the next 18 months I was able to follow its decay, taking one or two pictures almost every day. It became a sort of obsession.

Your images are slow and meditative – with a clear attention to color, shadow and placement. Can you talk us through your process? How do you go about building and furnishing your ‘sets’, and how much experimentation is involved in the final outcome?

Almost all my photography is done in a small garden pond. I use mostly natural light and a silver reflector. I have made some glass plates (~1m2) that fit exactly over the pond and I build them up in several layers, like a manual Photoshop. I spend most of the time arranging the objects and waiting for the right light. Recently I have started to use an LED light with a dimmer and this way I can work more precisely. I process the images in Phocus (Hasselblad software) and make small adjustments in Photoshop.