My recent work in still life evolved out of what I did for years with the view camera, usually involving various objects arranged on a surface or in a tray, box, or on a shelf that serves as a container or setting. The objects are found or collected and often altered by me, and tend to show the marks of time, as do the trays and so forth which are worn rough. I select and combine them in a way that I hope brings out the visual resonance they produce together. Some of the compositions consist of a number of similar objects arrayed calligraphically, in an attempt to create a sort of vibrating or moving equilibrium. The photographs have a lot to do with memory and sensation, and their intention is poetic and spiritual (not to put too fine a point on it).
For these images I use certain techniques and procedures that provide not only high definition, but also high resolution in depth of focus. This precision is not an end in itself, but a way to reinforce what I want the subjects to communicate; it’s important to me that the subjects are sharply seen, that they rival natural vision in their richness and sensory–emotional impact. In this respect (and also for their special attention to light), my favorite models from art history include Memling and the other Flemish Primitives, and American trompe–l’oeil painters such as William Harnett. I also feel a strong kinship with Joseph Cornell, although I am not so whimsical.
The techniques are essentially two. The simpler is to photograph the subject in sections, to be reassembled via photo–elaboration. The more demanding one is to photograph each section at multiple focuses (often ten or fifteen), which are then assembled into sandwiches from which the sharpest areas are selected and the less sharp areas masked out. (One should not suppose that Photoshop gives perfect results with a couple of commands. I frequently spend weeks to produce one final image.) With these methods I can produce a file much larger than I could with a single, overall photograph (with a definition comparable to a view camera image), and with a depth of field that surpasses that of the view camera.
These photographs are printed in limited editions, using artist’s paper and pigmented inks.
- Allen Schill
I grew up on Long Island; I went to live in New York City from 1969 until 1996, when I moved to Torino, Italy. In New York I studied at Columbia College and in 1973 was conferred the B.A. in Art History, then went on to Lehman College for the M.F.A. in painting, graphics, and photography, granted in 1977. I worked for a couple of years for the photographer Irving Penn, and then embarked upon a career, mostly in teaching photography, especially at Hostos Community College. All the while I've been pursuing various projects in photography and other media.