Life and Death on a Table Top


Pushing the still life genre forwards

Still life has always been about more than fruit and flowers arranged on tables. The French word for the genre – nature morte – references mortality, a nod to the brevity of even the most luxurious of lives. Still life images at their best illicit a response on both a visual and an intellectual level – both examining the principles of arrangement and aesthetic taste, and asking questions about commodity-based status, the everyday, and life and death. They take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. Everyday objects morphed into high art.

With any genre rooted in such tradition though, it takes special work to push it in new and interesting directions – for the work to feel fresh and exciting, rather than just referential and appropriated. An aesthetic document is one thing, but what does a modern still life communicate that we don’t already know, that photographers weren’t already exploring almost a century ago?

This list highlights a few of my favourite photographers who work with the still life genre, as well as a couple of the pioneers. They each approach the genre from a different place, but are united in their ability to create beautiful, meaningful art. I hope you find a wealth of inspiration, and a few surprises among these names.

(Banner image © Sharon Core)

Ori Gersht (Israel)