I can’t remember when I first came across the work of Kim Klassen on Instagram, but I really liked her style and I have followed her since.
She does still life photos, setting the stage for telling stories. These shots are sometimes straight downward photos, and other times larger and more elaborate scenes, wth tables, chairs, a typewriter, windows, or walls with scarves hanging from the hooks. The look is usually light and airy, using just natural light, and I have found I am drawn to her style, her photos, her visual stories.
So this year, specifically this winter, I had decided I wanted to do more still life and learn how to create a visual story and how to use lighting, both natural and artificial. So, after looking on her website, I enrolled in Kim Klassen’s Be Still 52 Week project. She explains, that a few years back her husband was fighting for his life against leukemia. They had to leave their home to stay in a hotel near the city center where he was getting his treatments and this was during a time when her son was struggling with his own very difficult life circumstances and issues. Kim tells the story about picking up the camera and creating a photo, all the while, getting a break from the pressure and stress of her daily life. She attributes this daily act as her place of sanity, rest, peace and quiet. Her calm. “Still life photography allows me to see, breathe and be still …Photography saved me ” she writes on her blog. And so, she developed The Studio, and later the Be Still series, to help others achieve what she had experienced during that time, and continues to in and through her work.
The first task was to gather backgrounds and props with which to tell my visual stories. I found an old wood ironing board for $18.00 at the second hand place. I bought foam boards in white and black, all less then $2.00 each. At Michael’s I found some white painted wood boards and slates, a little more expensive at appropriately $26.00 for the lot. And finally, a trip to Dollarama for sheer drapes, some floor tiles, linens and placemats, all for less than $20.00. As I love flowers, I decided I would start the course using flowers or shaping stories around flowers. They are always readily available and can be easily replenished. I only needed supporting characters for these subjects and between my household and my mothers, we had lots of china pieces and vases to use as props.
I started the lessons. These are weekly lessons, but I am taking two or three weeks on each lesson. I’m in no hurry. In crafting these visual stories, I use and am learning about light. Natural light, from a window, beside or above, diffused light, back light, and artificial light from above and the side. I am also learning about the absence of light and creating moody and dark images. I find I am drawn to creating the lighter and more airy photos. I enjoy white on white with natural light, the seemingly most uplifting of them all. And while I am doing the composing, setting up and resetting, then clicking away, I find I am calm, I am at peace. Kim Klassen says you must take a moment beforehand to Be Still, just quiet the mind in order for that to translate to the camera. I am finding the entire process very soothing and uplifting for my soul. As I process these light and airy photos, the feelings of calm and quiet continue to resonate through me. My mind is at rest.
Like Kim Klassen, I am finding creating still life photography allows me to just be. To slow down, experience the quiet, and become calm. It might be my age, or the type of work I do, but I really enjoy this time. I’m at the point of almost craving it, when there have been too many days in between shooting. I love to see and look at the pretty pictures that I create as well as others and dream of being there, right there, in this moment. I am still so new to the course and still life, that my photos are simplistic and minimal. As I progress, I am sure my stories will become more complicated and larger, like the photos others who engage in this style are creating. However, this is clearly a genre where the end product is definitely far less important than the journey.
If you want to explore this type of photography for yourself, here are some of the people I follow on Instagram:
Give these photographers a look, I think you’ll find the calm. Then take a flower, just one flower. Take a breath, quiet your mind, and then take as many photos of that one flower as you possibly can. From beneath, above, the side, and in macro. Place it against a dark background, then in front of a window, then below, and don’t forget beside the table lamps. And when your done, just notice the quiet, the fullness of the soul. Just be still and enjoy for a moment more.