Contemporary Vanitas Prep

My aim to take a traditional looking Vanitas image using things that I would usually throw away. So the props I will need are:

  • Wastepaper basket
  • Variety of clean waste / recycling
  • I won’t take a take a cloth as I want to use the surface of the table in the studio

I want to recreate natural soft window light on the display, looking as though it will be coming from one side. So I plan to set up the studio to look like this.


So I will need the following equipment:

  • Tripod
  • Light meter
  • Medium softbox
  • Barn doors
  • Honeycomb
  • I’ll use the black background that is already in the studio

I will be placing the camera to frame the items quite tightly on a small table and want to have everything in focus, so I expect to use an aperture of around F8.


John Blakemore

John Blakemore is a British photographer, known for his black and white documentary, landscape and still life photographs.

Born in 1936 in Coventry, Blackmore first began taking photographs in Tripoli while serving in the air force for his National Service. He went on to teach at the University of Derby for over thirty years.

These detailed photographs were created in the studio using natural light and are composed out of items found in the ground. Blakemore used a large 10 x 8 camera and used multiple exposures to layer the items on top of one another.

John Blakemore
John Blakemore

An archive of his work is now available at the Central Library in Birmingham.

In College this week we used Blakemore as inspiration to create our own still life layered image.

We used one studio light behind our subject in place of natural daylight and lit it from the front using a reflector or mirror. First we photographed a tray of soil, then added items and photographed it again, finally merging the two images together in Photoshop and converting the final image to black and white.


Now that I’ve seen the two images merged together I realise just how much more I could fit into the frame. I’ve cropped in to make the images square to exclude some of the other ‘dead space’ but also because we are trying to create something more contemporary I thought this reflected the modern trend for square Instagram type images. Perhaps I could have added another layer of items in order to compact the frame a little more.

My Blakemore Style Image
My Blakemore Style Image 2

Red Ball

Under the heading of Red Ball, I wanted to photograph something that was red and round but not necessarily a ball.

I’ve been meaning to take some photographs that I could use on my Christmas cards so I’ve started with a red bauble. Of all the photographs I have taken today these are my favourites.

The photos are ok to be used on my Christmas cards but I’m not sure that they are creative enough for my assignment. I’ll post one of them to the assignment page for now, but I hope to do something a little more creative before the assignment is due to be complete.