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Masters of Photography

Lesson 28 of 34

Lets Make A Still Life

Joel Meyerowitz

Masters of Photography

Joel Meyerowitz

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Lesson Info

28. Lets Make A Still Life

Lesson Info

Lets Make A Still Life

(upbeat orchestral music) I'm making a still life now just so we can have something interesting to look at. But it's fascinating to me how when you have a selection of objects around, you can begin to take one object and just put it down and suddenly it invites other objects into its space. I mean, this appeared just by itself. I stood up this blade because it had a kind of force and persona and when I stood it up, it seemed slightly menacing because it looks like armor, or it looks like, it's warlike in some way. And that was like the first thing that came to me. And so I found myself accumulating other objects, either grayer or darker, but all metal. And somehow, the way the group assembled, I was feeling the mass and the power as if there was some kind of force, a political force or a violent force. That's just what came out of the objects themselves. And so, once I saw this accumulating, I kept on adding to it. And then I thought, well, but is this energy confronting? And I thoug...

ht, well, you know, in the world there's often the might of nations, is often suppressing people or is using to run over the natives in some way. And suddenly I found myself with these tiny little tin objects that are probably baker's decoration tools. You would push the cream through here to write happy birthday. And somehow the tiny metal scale against the, and they're similar. There's something similar about this and this. But one seems innocent and playful, and the other seems like it is part of the establishment in a way, that's sort of what it is. And then I found myself thinking, well, these are the people. They're addressing the establishment and saying, "Help, help us, we're down here, we're calling out to you. "Hey, make our lives better." And they're not hearing. So, it shaped itself as a story. I didn't intend the story. I had no idea of any story. But the objects themselves gave off this menacing power, it seemed to me. And I have this object in my hand, this beautiful object which I think is a weight or a plum line. This is a plum line so that something will be measured accurately for vertical. It's really heavy. But, it feels good in my hand and I'm looking for a place to put it, I don't know where it should go. I kind of think maybe it should go here somewhere, but it just doesn't seem to have a place and sometimes you just have leftovers. You can't make them work. Maybe the next time I make a still life, this will be the first guy to enter the game and start the story. And I say story, but it's not that there is a literal story. It seems to me that the energy that's in these objects gathers itself together and it makes a kind of conversation in space and I won't know if it means anything or if it's substantial until I make some photographs of it and check the light and all of that. But, right now my first steps are to work totally in response to the objects that I have here. And I've got dozens and dozens of objects. I could have chosen any of them. In fact, I may replace these objects, but for the moment I wanna work with this to see do I have something genuine here? Is this interesting enough to make a photograph of? So I'm gonna just check and see. I'll make an exposure. (camera shutter) (camera shutter) It's two seconds at F22, so it's a long exposure, sort of. But it gives me the description of the whole space, if I were to make a print of this, a big print, everything, from the tiny flecks of paint here, to the markings on the wall there, would be in the space. It would be held together by the focus. I think that's important to, as a person who's always used a view camera, large wooden camera with a hood over my head, I like that plastic quality of space being in focus all the way through the space. Yeah. What's interesting, what I just noticed is that, it may be difficult to see it here, but in the camera there are beautiful little spaces between things, like under here, this blade curves, but it curves right up over the top of this thing so that they're sitting there with a little space like that. And this fits right up against that, so there's like a little bit of air there. There aren't too many overlappings. There are a few, but there are also spaces between things that give each object clarity. Remember, it's only a bunch of metal junk on a table that was assembled in a kind of inspired moment of playfulness and it came out looking like this. I had no idea what would appear on this table when I started to do this. And I think it's that quality of surprise that gives us all the pleasures that photography brings. You start out like going for a walk in the morning, and you have no idea what you're going to see in the course of the day. And then the adventures begin. You come out, you do what you say, "Oh, do I wanna go left "or do I wanna go right?" And whatever decision you make, you're life will be changed from that decision, it's just the way life is. And so starting something like this, you pick up one object, and if you're fascinated by it, if it has a power or an invitation, if it's saying to you, "Come play with me. "I wanna play with you," you follow that. And if you're engaged, you might find something that's interesting to look at at the end. I mean I can't make a judgment about this at this moment because I just made it. But, right now, it feels like it accumulated its properties in an interesting way. I was totally engage and now I have to see what else comes from this? What will I do with this tomorrow when I come to the studio? Will I add to it, will I subtract to it? Will I put a light on it? Will I knock it all down? I have no idea, and that's part of the fun of playing in a studio.

Class Description

Internationally renowned and award winning photographer Joel Meyerowitz is known for his iconic images that encompass decades of capturing all genres of photographs. Masters of Photography is bringing Joel’s class to CreativeLive to share the learnings from his vast career.

You’ll learn:

  • How to find a subject to photograph
  • How to improve your compositional skills
  • How to determine correct lighting
  • How to print your images and also create a photo book

Walk with Joel through picturesque Tuscany, bustling Siena and the vibrant streets of New York as he shows you how he creates his photographs. He will shares ideas, experiences, and his secrets on how to make great images. Joel will also suggest ideas for projects to try yourself. You can use any device from camera phone to DSLR, but in the end it’s all about you and your photography.

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I have an all access pass and thought oh no, I have to pay for this one? I bit the bullet and I am so glad I did. Joel has a great deal of wisdom and experience because of his age. BUT, despite his age, he exudes a fountain of enthusiasm, playfulness, curiousity and constant wonder surrounding his subjects. He opened within me the possibilities of exploring different photographic subjects and allowing myself to experience the fun in pursuit of those subjects. I love the way he shows how someone can take the same ho hum scene, but then look around for a different point of view. He is indeed a Master and I thank Joel for the class.


This is a absulutely fantastic class. Joel Meyerowitz takes you on an journey of little but important advices. In each short video you got some jewels to improve your approach, your view and your art. I own a lot of classes here on CL, but this one is one of my favourits! Gentle and human. Thank you Joel Meyerowitz, you helped me a lot on my journey to develop my photography.

Cosmin Dolha

What do you do after you learn all the mechanics, the technical stuff, exposure triangle, lights, where do you start? Because I am starting, now! You will find encouragement and guidance, and real applicable wisdom. If you are new to photography as I am, this course will point you in the right direction. What a treasure! Thank you CreativeLive for this and thank you Joel Meyerowitz for taking such a gentle approach to such a complicated subject, that is photography.