The Stilling of Life

By Steven Kushner | January 27, 2021

In March of 2020, as the reality of the pandemic was sinking in, I realized that the focus of my photography would have to change. I like to do street photography. But since the prospect of walking outside and interacting with people was no longer an option, I decided to turn to object photography.

Initially, I started shooting things around the house that I felt attached to. Like family heirlooms—my father’s tools, my mother’s Shabbat (Sabbath) candlesticks. Things that represented my roots. And a continuity from generation to generation.


Steve Kushner, My Father’s Tools 2020


Steve Kushner, My Mother’s Shabbat Candlesticks 2020


Along the way, I turned to flowers. Flowers are easy. I bought a lightbox. But it felt a bit too much like I was doing product photography for eBay. And then one day I saw how light streaming through the skylights in my living room was hitting the lilies my wife had just bought. In an instant I saw a painting.


Steve Kushner, A Tulip’s Last Days 2020


Steve Kushner, Enlightened Lilies 2020


Steve Kushner, Reaching for the Light 2020


But ultimately it was the lure of setting my own scene that brought me to a newfound passion: still life photography. For years I have been enamored with the still life paintings of the Dutch Masters. More than just art projects for beginners, I came to appreciate that these were images not simply of inanimate objects but statements about the life and times of the artists themselves.


Steve Kushner, Still Life for the Pandemic, #1 2021


Steve Kushner, Still Life for the Pandemic, #2 2021


Why, after all, is it called “still life”? Is it simply because the objects are motionless? Or is it because the artist is “stilling” life? More than just a snapshot, a freeze-frame of an arrangement, I like to think that the still life is actually a reflection of the artist’s world. And for me, my shifting to still life photography during the pandemic has become a metaphor for a life that has been slowed to a stillness of social isolation and indoor living. It has, for me, been redemptive.


Steve Kushner, Still Life with Pear and Grapes 2021


Click here to see more of my still life photographs.

Copyright © 2021 Steven Kushner
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  1. Ellen Bennett on January 31, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    Your photographs tell good stories, Steven. Thank you for sharing your work.

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