Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Still life with aphorisms

click photo to enlarge
If I wasn't interested in quotations it is unlikely that I'd have come across Malcolm de Chazal (1902-1981), but I did just that the other day, and I haven't yet decided whether he was a charlatan or an interesting oddity. A Frenchman who spent most of his life working in Mauritius as an agronomist and civil servant, he is best known for his several volumes of numbered thoughts and ideas, in particular Pensees and Sens-Plastique, which he began publishing in 1940. At George Braques' prompting he took up painting in the 1950s.

The quotation that brought de Chazal to my notice has a bearing on today's photograph: "The flower in the vase smiles, but no longer laughs." It reminds me of a cod-Confucian saying that might have been slipped into a bad* 1970s Kung-Fu movie. In fact, a lot of his "aphorisms" have that quality: try these - "accidents happen only when roads change their minds", "the rock needs no burial when it dies", "our expression and our words never coincide, which is why the animals don't understand us." But then he comes up with a few that, while still having that pseudo-mystical feel, also have a quality that by-passes our conscious mind and seems to stir something deeper: for example - "art is nature speeded up and God slowed down", or how about, "monkeys are superior to men in this: when a monkey looks into a mirror, he sees a monkey." But perhaps I'm trying too hard to find something in the writer's words that just isn't there! Look him up, read what he has to say, and make up your own mind.

Today's image is one of an ongoing series of still life photographs that borrow their subject and composition from painting. This one is an arrangement that my wife assembled from our garden and put on a chest in the hall. The combination of colours, particularly the red/pinks of the flowers with the greens of the leaves and vase, appealed to me, so I grabbed it and photographed it against a very dark background in strongly directional natural light to show off the blooms. The final image has had the contrast increased to emphasise the flowers further.

Here are links to other photographs in this series - 1, 2, 3, 4

* Afterthought: isn't the phrase "a good Kung Fu movie" an oxymoron?

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm macro (70mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/2
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off