Still Beauty

Beauty had a struggle to survive the latter quarter of the 20th century. Artists who nonetheless found creative energy in the redemptive power of beauty were considered passé at best and patronized at worst. The “love of all the truly precious things” to which Simone Weil refers found no favor in the art establishment. Fortunately, the strength of beauty is such that—elusive and perhaps even undefinable—it has survived in all its mystery.

My own goal in photography is to create beauty in my images compelling enough to establish its own legitimacy—whether beauty as a concept is in or out of fashion. I find a ramble around my garden—in a good season or a bad—to be deeply satisfying. There’s something about the patterns and designs—even of barren branches—that is inherently beautiful. It lifts my spirits to choose a bouquet, especially variegated and with oddities—maybe a few weeds—among the flowers and bushes I’ve planted over the years. The return of old favorites and the surprising newness of annual blossoms inspire me to photograph.

In the past year I’ve been fascinated by the lighting effects possible using a small flashlight in a dark room to illuminate my still life arrangements. Like the Dutch, Spanish, and Italian Old Master painters, using brushes and oils to create light, my small flashlight allows me to paint light onto my still lifes with precise control.* It was an especially fortunate time to discover this technique—in the time of Covid, it was a balm and has given me joy. – Brigitte Carnochan

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