Still Life — With a Chase Scene

Adventures in Pictorialism

2 min read by Mat Hughes.

Stage IV emergency restrictions are in place across the city due to Covid-19. We are confined to stay at home until the virus is bought under control. I am fine with that.

I found the round vase in a junk shop. It’s pretty old and is made of the most beautiful green glass. I dug up the old bottle in the back yard. I do marvel at how these have managed to survive intact for so long for something so fragile. The flowers were collected with my daughter. We try to visit the wetland reserve at the end of our street for the permitted one-single-hour daily exercise. Back in the studio, the vase sits on my workbench beside the window.
From the series “Still Life-Balance,” 2020.

The photographs explore isolation and life-balance themes during the uneasy collective mindstate and the endless, mundane routines that shape our house-bound lives. As well as the often-overlooked simple pleasures, like the sheer beauty of sunlight falling on a vase of flowers.

Untitled #1, 2020

These still-life vignettes aren’t static, however. They are a chase scene: as the sunlight races across the wall, infusing the scene with a warm glow, a split-second moment is caught on film. And at that moment, all is in absolute balance, the worries are faded, and breathing is easy again.

I took these photographs on my large-format camera and printed them using the 19th century Van Dyke Brown printing process.

Having hand-coated the paper with the light-sensitive emulsion and exposed it, I finished the prints with varnish and a layer of bees’ wax. The additional work and the somewhat exotic materials that went into producing the final image were meant to celebrate authenticity in the age of abundant, doctored digital sharpness.

Untitled #2, 2020