(500) Days of Photographs: Day 3 – Still Life: A Collaboration between Richards Guest and Cooper-Knight

Our 20th collaboration! Richard G chose the theme and set the restriction “Give way to your worst impulse”. Enjoy!


Richard Guest: Still Life, 2013




For this collaboration I wanted to do something we hadn’t done for a while – a traditional subject. To keep it fresh, I added a restriction. The following statement had to inform the work: “Give way to your worst impulse”. I have wanted to use Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies cards (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblique_Strategies) for some time and this seemed the perfect opportunity.

My worst impulse when approaching a brief is to over-think it – it’s a symptom of a malaise I caught at art college (I suffered terribly with conceptualism for many years). Most of the time when I see it coming I lie down in a darkened room with a cold compress on my head, but not this time. I approached the brief with the clear intention of presenting something which was technically a still life, but did not look like one. I was emboldened in this by Jennifer’s (http://giddysap.wordpress.com/) works with suspended objects as part of her photographic still lifes. Thanks, Jennifer!

Still Life is also the name of a rather fabulous song by Van der Graaf Generator – you can listen to it here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYBifGynf6g).


Richard Cooper-Knight: Still Life, 2013



Oddly, rather than constraining me, Richard’s restriction drove home the shot I needed to take. The title ‘Still Life’ immediately brought to mind those countless Victorian paintings of fruit and vases. I’ve mentioned before about finding stages shots a bit false, so having to give way to my worst impulse only told me that that was exactly the route I needed to take.

Thankfully being on a bit of a health kick at the moment proved a bonus, as we have a lot of fruit in the house. It was not too difficult to pull the shot together, therefore, and, throw in my late grandmother’s brass jug and a small Roman statuette and it was there. Or so I thought…

The lighting proved the difficult bit. With the curtains open, there was too much of a glare (and frenetic ‘Daddy’s here’ activity from my three chickens), but with it drawn it was too dark and the light was more orange. It took about 30 shots to get it right (moving curtains, torch, ISO, f-stop, reflectors and exposure), but I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. (Oddly, the bit I like best is the reflection of the fruit in the neck of the jug, but picking up on the small things is not unusual for me!)


  1. Richard, that is beautiful! I love where the restriction took you. Ha, ha, there is a funny chemistry between our shots too – love it! Thanks for hosting; the shots look great in this new blog style. 🙂

  2. Two great still life images… a small piece of familiar everyday life that would be easy to overlook, and a construction of everyday life. They do work together.

  3. I love both of these shots. The simplicity of the first and the richness of the second. The lighting in both is very nice as are the composition.

  4. Even though I lack the technical finesse of a photographic eye, I find the collaboration cohesive and individualistic. The blind string appears like arrested motion. The fruit picture is the classical still life and yes, the reflection on the metal surface is almost certainly the centrepiece for me. Great collaboration.

  5. Very beautiful and interesting. The first shot I really like the whispy shadow or drawing or is it a cobweb? on the left. It holds a lot of power. On the second one the metal mask is curious sort of spooky? I don’t know. The back ground of books has me guessing and the fruit and reflection – well it’s all very now. Thank you guys for collaborating. We get the benefits. Carla

    • Haha. Thanks, Carla! I am glad you enjoy the images! I can’t speak for the cobweb in Richard G’s image (or wasn’t going to mention it!), but the mask is just something I added to the shot to give it a bit extra. As for the background of books, that’s just the wallpaper in the room I took the photo in, lol… I’m all depth and subtext, me! 😀

  6. Still Life – that blind pull makes me think of hanging (which would still life quite readily). It seems a bit ominous, but maybe that’s just my brain… I like the spider web touch, too.

    The fruit is very painterly. Beautiful photograph. I think the little helmet has quite a presence in this piece. Empty among all that fullness…

  7. Nice shots. I like the minimalism of RG’s shot and as he states it’s a still life without actually looking like one. And I like that CK’s is a pastiche (almost a parody) of traditional still life paintings and photos. Plus the fruit looks tasty. Good work guys!

  8. I’m with you on the reflection. I swear it was the first thing I noticed! I am like that too–the little things really catch my eye. I also like the armor statue! It adds humor. Richard’s shot is interesting because at first glance, it looks staged, until you realize it is an ordinary object. I like how it messes with perception. Good job both of yas. 🙂

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