The Stilling of Life
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.
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.
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.
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.
Click here to see more of my still life photographs.
Copyright © 2021 Steven Kushner
Steve is a Reform rabbi who, in his retirement, found purpose and meaning in photography. Although primarily a street photographer, of late he has turned to seeing the power in images of abandoned buildings and still lifes. His award-winning work has been presented in galleries and shows in New Jersey.