A new painterly way of creating photographs with a reference to vanitas an artist self exploration


By Culture24's Arts Correspondent | 23 April 2013

Flowers and live butterflies appear in a lush celebration of life for Alexander James' exhibition 'Intersection'

Flights of beauty in the studio are rarely as literal as they were during Alexander James’ 3 months of being locked away to create his new series.

In a decision he says was made “not lightly”, the photographer began breeding butterflies for the project.
inside the baroque vanitas room intersection
inside the exhibition space the artist transformed an empty office building floorplate into a surreal Vanitas installation.

“It’s a celebration of life,” asserts the artist, defining his fascination as “the temporality and fragility of life”, as well as the ornate, ephemeral compositions of 17th century Dutch Master painters.

To recreate their painterly look with photography was no easy task, James photographed cut flowers underwater, capturing their exact state of ghostly suspense while resisting the temptations of subsequent digital remastering. Everything was created in front of the lens, as pure an image as the artist could create choosing to leave the editing within the camera.

"It was a new, painterly way of creating photographs,” he says.

"The reference to vanitas is not only a homage – it’s a self-exploration.

Some of them are stories of love. Decadence, death and betrayal – it’s all there.

The playground is between the object and the lens. Something magical happens."

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A new painterly way of creating photographs with a reference to vanitas an artist self exploration
'Grace', 2010 by Alexander James Hamilton.
edition of X, 120 x 90 cms and II aritst proofs 200 x 150cms

READERS NOTES... Explore the Vanitas collection of works, with the 'Intersection' exhibition catalogue available to read here in both  English  &  Russian.
isis bound underwater floral vanitas