This picture of carrots is part of a “pictures of vegetables” series that I took in the mid-1990s, when I published a newsletter on natural health called The Good Life.
This was one of my rare attempts at still life photography where I arranged the subject. Most of my other still life photographs were taken as is. I prefer to let nature, or chance, do the arrangement.
I am pleased with my still life picture of carrots and pictures of garlic, corn and other vegetables. I learnt much from that exercise.
I was publishing my newsletter on natural health at that time, and could have wanted it for an illustration. Seriously, I have forgottten the motive for creating carrot images.
What I do remember very clearly was that I liked what I saw through the viewfinder of my camera. In fact, I liked it so much that:
Apart from recalling the excitement of that day's picture taking, I remember that I learnt an important lesson about still life photography – that the background is as importan as – perhaps more so than – the subject itself.
After all, still life is usually about ordinary, everyday objects that we do not normally pay much attention to. The background can do much to either enhance or add interest to the subject.
Of course, lighting is very important too in still life photography. Lighting often plays a vital role in drawing attention to certain parts or features of the subject.
However, as I do not have studio lighting equipment, I relied on sunlight from my window for my picture of carrots and the rest of this pictures of vegetables series.
Unfortunately, I no longer have sunlight coming into the house. My old apartment faced Northeast and it was at the corner of an apartment block, so I had wonderful light entering my home at an angle every morning. It was excellent for natural light still life photography.
My present apartment faces South. It is better for me, according to my feng shui consultant. But I cannot take any more still life photographs at home with natural sunlight.
Around the time I took my picture of carrots and the rest of the picture of vegetables series, I had another great inspiration – from young corn.
Corn, especially young or baby corn, is usually sold stripped of its skin and the corn silk inside. But it so happened that the vegetable market near my house had whole young corn, with everything intact. When I opened up the skin, I was amazed at how long and luscious the corn silk was. That gave me plenty of ideas, and I literally went wild!
The above picture of corn, by the way, can be rotated 90º clockwise. It makes as much, maybe more, sense as a vertical picture!
Incidentally, the black background in two of the pictures of corn was just my black T-shrt. The green background was a nice, big glass plate. And again, these pictures were taken with sunlight coming in from my window.
Another inspiration that arose from the original picture of carrots is this series of mushroom photographs, with a cross-section of a button mushroom set against the back of another type of mushroom called abalone mushroom
Then I have this sprouted onion resting on my dinner plate, which I thought looked like a snail or an alien creature from outer space:
So much for vegetable arrangements. It has been about 10 years since I started with that first picture of carrots and I really wonder what I can come up with if I were to attempt another “picture of vegetables” series today.
I might do better, I might run out of ideas, I really don't know. I need to solve the lighting before I even get started again, so it will be some time.
My more usual style of still life photography is to capture arrangements of objects, including vegetables, as they are. My skill, then, is that of the observer rather than an arranger. I have several examples but, unfortunately, many of my slides were lost. What's left are these two pictures of some sort of gourd.
Sorry to say, I don't know what they are or how to cook them. I cannot even remenber where I took these pictures of vegetables – in Bali, Thailand or Burma? All I know is that they make an interesting arrangement, naturally.
Back to a picture of carrots. Well, this is not quite a carrot but I made this carrot image as a critical illustration of the modern idea of nutrition. Here's some food for thought…