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

 

 

To old to be playing with my food (yeah, right)

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Still life with chutney. Photo (and chutney): Su Leslie, 32014. Shot with iPhone4, edited with Pixlr Express.

Still life with chutney. Photo (and chutney): Su Leslie, 2014. Shot with iPhone4, edited with Pixlr Express.

Art is full of repeating themes and recurring imagery. Still life as a genre focuses in on the ordinary, the commonplace, the detail. Most of the most famous Western artists have painted still lives, and the genre continues today in not only painting but in collage and assemblage works, and in photography.

One of the joys of photo editing is the ability to re-make the same image over and over. While painters and sculptors labour over a single representation, and traditional photography allows image manipulation only with considerable effort, free editing apps can transform snapshots from a smart phone into a vintage photo, pencil sketch, oil painting, watercolour, and all manner of stylized images.

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Still life with chutney. Photo (and chutney): Su Leslie, 2014. Shot with iPhone4, edited with Pixlr Express.

I’m particularly fond of AutoDesk’s Pixlr Express as an editing tool. I particularly like the overlays which I use to give texture and odd spots of colour to images.

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Still life with chutney. Photo (and chutney): Su Leslie, 2014. Shot with iPhone4, edited with Pixlr Express.

By repeatedly smoothing out a stylized version of my photo, then overlaying it with a scraped texture and changing the color balance, the final effect reminds me a bit of the wonderful illustrations in Eric Carle’s books for children – in particular The Very Hungry Caterpillar – which was an early favourite of the boy-child’s.

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Still life with chutney. Photo (and chutney): Su Leslie, 2014. Shot with iPhone4, edited with Pho.to Lab and Pixlr Express.

I’ve recently discovered another new app I quite like: Pho.to Lab – although the advertising in the free version will probably drive me away and I’m not sure there is enough in the paid app to interest me.  I used Pho.to Lab to create an initial oil painting effect on the image above, then played around with it some more in Pixlr Express. I quite like the result, but would prefer a little less “photo realism” in the image.

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Still life with chutney. Photo (and chutney): Su Leslie, 2014. Shot with iPhone4, edited with Pho.to Lab.

This “pen and ink drawing” effect is from Pho.to Lab, and is probably the image I think is most successfully edited with this tool.

Still life with chutney. Photo (and chutney): Su Leslie, 2014. Shot with iPhone4, edited with Pixlr Express.

Still life with chutney. Photo (and chutney): Su Leslie, 2014. Shot with iPhone4, edited with Pho.to Lab.

The image above is also from Pho.to Lab, and while I like it, I think it’s a bit gimmicky for the kind of editing I’m interested in doing. The same is probably true of the image below – which I’ve cropped to remove some of the – I think naff – detail Pho.to Lab includes.

Still life with chutney. Photo (and chutney): Su Leslie, 2014. Shot with iPhone4, edited with Pho.to Lab.

Still life with chutney. Photo (and chutney): Su Leslie, 2014. Shot with iPhone4, edited with Pho.to Lab.

Sally’s challenge  this week at Lens and Pens by Sally, is editing and processing – something I just love doing.

Here are some other bloggers’ responses to the theme:

http://pictograf.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/phoneography-and-non-slr-digital-devices-photo-challenge-editing-and-processing/

http://irenewaters19.com/2014/06/30/phoneography-challenge-identical/

http://amaltaas.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/phoneography-and-non-slr-digital-devices-photo-challenge-editing-and-processing-with-apps/

http://completelydisappear.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/know-it-all/

http://sustainabilitea.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/phoneography-and-non-slr-digital-devices-photo-challenge-editing-and-processing-with-various-apps-using-themes-from-the-fourth-week-still-life/

http://decocraftsdigicrafts.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/phoneography-challenge-editing-with-apps/

http://nwframeofmind.com/2014/06/30/iphoneography-monday-6-30-14/

http://piecesofstarlight.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/phoneorgaphy-the-challenging-chalk-art-photography/

http://angelinem.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/phoneography-challenge-editing-dragon-fruit/

http://helpalongthepath.com/2014/06/30/bridge-phoneography-and-non-slr-devices-photo-challenge/

http://austindetails.me/2014/06/30/iphoneography-contrast/

http://walktheselftalk.com/2014/07/01/phoneography-and-non-slr-digital-devices/