Still life photography is all about capturing stills of our daily life. While it may seem frivolous and staged to some, it is an important part of capturing our current modern life and culture. Still life — in all its forms from simplistic folk art and the masters of old — has always captured everyday items and given a visual record of that given history of time. From what’s on the breakfast table to arts and craft, even the type of cutlery and crockery that were in vogue.
Granted not everyone cares about that sort of stuff, but it is vital to keep a visual record through the years and decades, even centuries. Even these seemingly innocuous images will tell future generations about everyday life we have now. People still speak of incredible images painted 100s of years ago, who knows what they will think of today’s images in 100 years?
As with street photography — which captures everyday life, buildings, fashions, political sentiment, people and events in history — it is vital to keep these images for history. To know where we are going it is important to know where we came from. Still life takes a snapshot of everyday items and everyday life for future generations.
Capturing life in stills
In this digital age, just about everyone has a camera, from the smartphones with incredible camera functionality to readily available and more affordable DSLRs. Anyone who can pick up a camera can capture life in stills (and video).
So if anyone can do it, why do we need it so much? This is a good point. Just because anyone can do it, and so many people do, should it all be kept as a record of life in 2020? These images can include pretty much anything and everything from our daily life; games, toys, food and flowers, just snippets of the everyday. I believe a varied selection across the board and across the world can give a better account for our current daily activities.
Preserving images for future generations
Sure, still life imagery can be pretty and fun. It has a myriad of uses from marketing and advertising to pretty pictures on social media.
There is, however, another more serious side to capturing still life. It is a record of everything we do, what we eat, how we live, from all over the world. It is capturing a snippet from our everyday lives.
Still life covers not only food and flowers, but lifestyle photography as well. There are people who still covet magazine images from the 1900s through today, all a snapshot of various fabulous eras — the 40s, 50s and 60s. Each with their own quirks and stylized charm. Who knows what people will think of today’s images.
If everything is digital how will it be preserved?
This is a real dilemma. There are millions of images snapped every day, both good and bad. Many never even make it off a person’s smartphone. Social media is not a permanent record, even though it may seem like it.
This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that so many magazines are now only going digital-only. It’s just another sign of the times. The reason so many images from the last few hundred years have been preserved is because they are a physical print.
How will digital be preserved? I mean, floppy disks are designated to history and that is fairly recent, not even 50 years ago. CDs and DVDs are almost becoming relics too and with degradation and physical damage — they’re not a reliable preservation method. Should we print more images? Perhaps it is something to think about.
Should we keep it all?
This is a really good question, if yes, how? If no, then what do we keep? I don’t have the answers, I am just posing the questions. The point is that still life photography, in all its subgenres, is a valuable and valid snapshot of today’s everyday life. The same with street photography.
I really do believe that it is the responsibility of each photographer to showcase their work, online and in person. Printing images and holding exhibitions, small or large are a brilliant way to preserve these images. Not everything has a place in history, but who are we to say which will hold a snapshot for future generations?
The printed image is not just for amazing landscapes and portraits. While they can also be a snapshot of our modern age, some can be timeless. I am not saying all my images are worthy to be kept for future generations, but I have gone through my back catalog to find some that may give a snippet of everyday life in the early 2000s. Like I said, I don’t have all the answers … but I think it is something worth thinking about. Perhaps over a cup of coffee?