Six word Saturday: a solitary leaf in the darkness

Image: Su Leslie, 2017

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The Changing Seasons: May 2017

Still life with symbolism. Still life of squash, onion, garlic, chilli and ginger with cookbooks, clock, toy car and autumn leaves. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Still life with symbolism. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Perhaps it because the cold has set in, but May has been a slow month; a still life heavy with abundance and oddity.

Rain and wind have turned fallen leaves to a slime covering pavements and lawns, while Antarctic air settling across the country has driven me to turn on the heating and unpack the winter duvet.

It’s time for indoor pursuits, warming food and dreams of adventure — just as soon as it’s warm again.

The Changing Seasons  is a blogging challenge hosted by Cardinal Guzman with two versions: the original (V1) which is purely photographic and the new version (V2) where you can allow yourself to be more artistic and post a painting, a recipe, a digital manipulation, or simply just one photo that you think represents the month.

These are the rules, but they’re not written in stone – you can always improvise, mix & match to suit your own liking:

The Changing Seasons V1:

Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.

The Changing Seasons V2:

Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

Regular random: five minutes with a bowl of mandarins

Still life with mandarins. Japanese laquer bowl containing fresh-picked mandarins.Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Still life with mandarins. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

I so enjoyed photographing the first mandarins of our crop that I thought I’d use the next harvest for my Five Minutes of Random post.

The bowl is one of my bargain purchases from the Asia Gallery and Vintage Fabric Emporium. I love the way the design echoes the colour and shape of a peeled mandarin.

Did the artist who made this bowl take inspiration from mandarin flesh? Close-up shot of laqueer design and peeled mandarin. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Did the artist who made this bowl take inspiration from mandarin flesh? Image: Su Leslie, 2017

And in keeping with the still-life theme, I couldn’t resist re-editing the shots in Stackables to add an “old-painting” effect.

Five Minutes of Random (the RegularRandom challenge), is a weekly photo challenge hosted by Desley Jane at Musings of a Frequently Flying Scientist.

At play with the meaning of things

Still life with hibiscus -- or afternoon tea with a good book. Close-up shot of tea cup, plate with biscuits, book and single hibiscus.  Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

Still life with hibiscus — or afternoon tea with a good book. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed and Stackables.

The Making of Home, by Judith Flanders (pictured above) is my go-to book at the moment; something to be savoured and digested carefully in small, thoughtful bites.

It’s a social historical account of how the mythology of “home” has been constructed over the last few centuries, and of how that has changed everything from the placement of furniture to the value of women’s work. To quote the Financial Times’ review:

In The Making of Home, Judith Flanders has many interesting, and sometimes startling, things to say about what domesticity means to us, how that meaning has changed – and how it has endured. As she points out, nostalgia is the presiding spirit in the age of consumerism and has been so since the 18th century. Suburban homes across the developed world represent a longing for an imaginary pre-industrial age. These dreams are of course fantasies: until very recently, most homes were hovels carrying no deeper meaning for their inhabitants than shelter and survival. Few people, even two centuries ago, had more than one chair, let alone chairs sufficient for the contented family meal at the simple cottage table that is so integral to the northern European ideal. — Financial Times, October 11, 2014

In the Introduction, Flanders sets out to show how our notions of what “home” means are shaped by cultural representations. She examines Dutch 17th century paintings of domestic scenes — which have come to be regarded as “the very epitome of homeness” — yet bear little resemblance to actual Dutch houses of the time. This point is reinforced in a recent BBC Culture article “Why Vermeer’s paintings are less real than we think.”

These days, I measure the quality of a book partly by how many creative ideas it inspires in me. The Making of Home is scoring highly here; beginning with the little still life above. Simple capture of a peaceful moment? Or highly constructed ironic comment on hegemonic representations of domesticity?

This digression into the sociology of home was written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally.

Regular Random: five minutes with the first figs of the harvest

I got back from my road-trip to find some our figs had ripened.

Lucky for me this was only a five-minute shoot — figs for breakfast.

Five Minutes of Random (the RegularRandom challenge) is hosted by Desley Jane at Musings of a Frequently Flying Scientist.

Still life with Cheezels

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Still-life composition of modern foodstuffs; instand noodles, energy drinks, sweets, doughnuts, processed cheese, etc. Image: Su Lesie, 2016

Still life composition of edible food-like substances.”  Image: Su Leslie, 2016

While still life art can encompass any set or collection of inanimate objects, I tend to associate the genre with 17th and 18th century paintings depicting tables or benches loaded with an abundance of foodstuffs. These paintings offer fascinating social history snapshots; being both literal depictions of the types of food available (if only to the rich), and loaded with symbolic allusions to gluttony, intemperance and the transience of luxury.

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Still life composition of “edible food-like substances.”  Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Food production and consumption exists in a social and economic context. Scarcity,  quality, nutrition, price — these are all part of a food narrative that can be explored in art.

In New Zealand, as in much of the world, the prevailing narrative is one of over-abundance. Or at least an over-abundance of calories — mainly derived from highly processed, readily available “convenience” foods. In his highly influential book In Defence of Food, Michael Pollan calls these “edible food-like substances”.

The Daily Post Photo Challenge asked this week for life imitating art. So I give you a still life from 2016, with all the symbolism and allegory of the genre. I also give you this, again from Michael Pollan:

“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t. ”
Michael Pollan