They say to never play with your food. Well…
I wish I could take full credit for this idea, but this idea was the spawn of a conversation I had with an Uber passenger. (a lot of cool things come from driving Uber, and I’m sure I’ll look back on those experiences fondly some day).
I met a nice lady in January during an Uber ride and we talked about life, like most Uber conversations. There is something true about that old TV show or known stereotype "taxicab confessions." Being in car with a stranger, knowing that you'll most likely never see them again, allows for the venting of intimate life details. There's something safe there, and no doubt fleeting.
My passenger and I somehow wandered to the topic of love and breakups. Blog confessions: at the time of this ride/conversation I was on the tail end of an old fashioned breakup. I shared that with my passenger and she easily identified. We both gave our thoughts on love and its complications and eventually the conversation steered (get it? steered? pun intended this time.) to the fact that we were both into photography and art. I guess I was talking about both finding a healthy way to occupy my mind on something other than the break up and also venting a desire to practice and shoot more; something I've certainly gotten away from in the last few years. My passenger suggested, "How you about you shoot some still life?"
I had never shot still life before. I used to enjoy shooting the plants and flowers around my father's yard in Connecticut that's about as close I had come. I had never intentionally sought to set up, arrange or observe inanimate objects for the sake of art.
I told that to my passenger and eventually ended my response sarcastically with, “What would I shoot...like....a bowl of cereal…” and she said, “Yes! Do Still Life with Cereal. I want you to do Still Life with Cereal and email the image to me.”
"Hmm, that sounds cool," I thought. I took it seriously. Immediately, I saw an image in my mind and I knew exactly what to do; I would set up my coffee table with some moody lighting from a single light source and then drop cereal, a spoon, and milk into the bowl at random. I figured, however the all the items fall would be a representation of my current mood. I believed that my inherent energy would transfer to the items. I felt like it was going to be a pretty cathartic exercise.
I woke up a few mornings later and set up the scene exactly as I described above. I used a little clamp desk lamp and set it off camera about 8 inches away from the table to get a little hard light in there (because you know, because of the break up, grrr, I was "angry," so why not have hard light?).
I didn't want to just start throwing around a bunch of cereal and milk, I wanted the images to have a couple of progressive stages.
1) The Ideal - the first image was a bowl of cereal as it's intended to be, neat and tidy with spoon inside the bowl.
2) Displacement - I deconstructed the ideal. What happens when we take the cereal and spoon out of the bowl? For someone like me, raised to keep household things neat and tidy, this was actually a nice freeing step. There was cereal on the table...and it was okay. No judgements. No having to clean it up right away.
3) Random Drop #1 - Then it was time for the energy, the catharsis. I took a handful of cereal (it was Special K Red Berries for anyone keeping score at home) which was about 6 to 8oz, outstretched my hand straight away from my body, and held it directly above the bowl. I dropped the cereal over the bowl and let it fall naturally. I did the same for a spoon, outstretched it over the bowl and dropped it.
4) Random Drop #2 - A second variation. Where would it all fall? How would it look?
5) Milk Drop #2 - It was time to introduce milk into the equation. You'll notice the image is entitled #2 and not #1.
In the Milk Drop #1 image, I did the same as above, dropped the cereal and spoon at random, and then I poured a glass of about 10 oz of directly over the bowl. The data and metrics of this don't really matter. It was supposed to be a spiritual release, but for the sake of giving you an idea/a visual: the table I was using was a pretty standard coffee table, the surface of which is about 20" from the floor. I stand a good 5'8" when I'm standing up straight, so with my arm outstretched at a 90 degree angle, I'd guess my hand is about 4' 6" from the ground. I was dropping the cereal, spoon and this time, the milk from about 3 feet above the surface of the table.
All of that said, the Milk Drop #1 image was okay, but I was a coward. When I started to pour the glass over the bowl/table, I started thinking about that 3 feet and I was afraid for it to splash. How ridiculous. I ended up pouring it gently and most of it ended up in the bowl. Fine, I'll show it to you...
Boooooo... that's not what we want! I quickly remembered what this whole exercise was about. Release. I used a little less milk on Drop #2, about 5oz and just turned my hand over quickly, and Milk Drop #2...
Very fun and cathartic experience. Need to do this more. I did go on to email my passenger the images. I thanked her for pushing me to create and we discussed life and love a bit more. Great lady. Great fun.
[Note: I’m aware that there are starving people in the world. I did not just waste this milk and cereal for the sake of art. I did eat the cereal when I was done. Admittedly, I had to clean up the milk from the table, so I am sorry for wasting that little bit of milk.]