“Tempus Fugit is a series of still life images illustrating the accelerating rate of the consumption of consumer goods and thus the associated resources. The are photographed in the classical Dutch Vanitas stlye with its strong moral symbology reminding us all of the passing of time and our own mortality. Begging the question ‘Is the way we live and the objects we require to live sustainable for the future generations of all the world?’ “
Image 1 Flat Iron
“TUESDAY: IRONING In most Iowa homes this third day of the week is reserved for ironing. The whole day should be reserved to complete this job.” 1880 quote from The Iowa Housewife
I choose to include a number of domestic items in this composition to complement the main subject, the galvanised jug and the copper pans along with classic Vanitas symbols of time passing and lifes fragility such as the watch, candle and tipped over glass ware.
“The SINGER model 15 is believed to be the longest manufactured machine in history introduced in 1870 and is still made in some Indian & Chinese provinces today. The model 15 was regarded as being just about perfect. It would sew anything from silk to canvas without complaining. It was the dawn of a new era in sewing machines.”
More classic Vanitas with the Arabian brass jug indicating travel along with fruit,flowers and burning candle which have a short life span. I particularly like the natural light reflection on the wall behind this composition.
Image 3 Manual Typewriter
“In spite of advances in technology and changes in the economy, state government still operates on an obsolete 1970s model. We have a typewriter government in an Internet age.” Matt Blunt, Former Governor of Missouri
The typewriter has a cast iron frame and is extremely heavy, I decided to contrast it with the fragility of glass and the timepiece as the Vanitas objects along with the domino pieces to represent human vice, gambling, or delight in earthy pleasures.
Image 4 Film Camera
“A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart.” Arnold Newman, Photographer
Books, on the history of the Labour Party, to indicate a well read man interested in politics, undetermined liquid refreshment and of course the skull in the background as Death biding its time simply waiting for the inevitable.
Image 5 Personal Computer
“Moore’s law is an observation originally made in 1965, revised in 1975 that the density of integrated circuits doubles every 2 years, thus making for ever more powerful and efficient computers. Inevitably accelerating their rate of obsolescence.” Gordon Moore, Co-founder of Intel Corporation.
I choose a redundant computer case, deliberately stripped of its workings, wires hanging out to show its useful life is already over. Again along with classic Vanitas symbols of a timepiece, hourglass and flowers.
Image 6 Mobile Phone
“In 2013 the UN announced that of the [then] estimated world population of 7 billion, 6 billion had access to mobile phones. Only 4.5 billion had access to working toilets.” UN Spokesperson
Vanitas images normally have a lot of detail and content, I deliberately choose to make this image more minimalist in line with the design aesthetic of modern computing devices, no ornamentation – compare for example with the typewriter or sewing machine. I deliberate chose the display of a child on the phone and a toy as indications of time passing rapidly. Additionally as an indication of the generations growing up apparently glued to such devices. The use of stuffed toy bird rather than a real dead one is a further pastiche of the Vanitas style.
Preparation and Presentation
I always envisaged this would be a limited number of images and therefore not suitable for a book but rather would be an exhibition piece of a limited number of larger prints. I decided to make the prints A2 sized as that is approximately the size of many Vanitas paintings and wished to continue with that aesthetic into the finished images. That said paintings of course come in many sizes but 60x40cm is a reasonable average and is also suitable for display in a home rather than necessarily in a gallery.
Originally I had intended them to be all landscape images but during shooting the light reflection in the sewing machine image worked better in a portrait orientation, similarly in the case of the mobile phone image although this is deliberately less crowded than others in the series the final image viewed in landscape mode was simply too empty and the phone is itself physically a portrait format.
One of the striking things about the Format Festival, there is blog post on the festival in professional contexts, was the range and variety of framing methods adopted by the various submissions. There were traditionally framed images in uniform sets, in a variety of sizes in the same display, images pasted directly onto the wall, pinned to the wall, hung from wires and bull dog clips.
However one particular method interested me and that was separating the frame from the print. So a simple box frame is attached to the wall, no glass, and the print is simply pinned to the wall inside the frame. I took these camera phone images to illustrate the method and the effect.
I think this is both attractive and cost effective as traditional framing of large prints is prohibitively expensive. Although I have decided to only show In Step images at the degree show this is the method I would choose to display these images and is the way I will present the In Step images. I made 2 116×85 cm frames for a total cost of less than £15 in the wood shop at Bath Spa. All that’s needed now is a couple of coats of emulsion paint.