As part of our photography coursework, we were asked to shoot some still life photographs and put into practice skills we learned in our workshop sessions. We were given fairly free reign to shoot whatever we wanted, however the object must’ve been found. Be it on the street, in a flatmates cupboard, or tucked away in a suspicious looking hollowed-out brick down one of Lincoln’s many shadowy passages.
Here is my final photograph.
Marconi Radio Tube (Colour and B&W Variants)
You may notice there are two images, this is because I couldn’t decide which edit I preferred, and they are technically one photograph, so I count it. They each have their merits, and I shall expand on this later in the post.
I chose to shoot this, which I found in an obsolete technology shop halfway up Steep Hill. This is a radio tube, sometimes known as a vacuum tube, which were the precursor to transistors, which in turn were precursor to silicon chips, which are in every confusing electrical device that you own that might appear to run on magic (including the device that you’re reading this on!).
I chose it because, quite frankly, I think they’re beautiful both in form and in function.
They are the grandfather of modern tech, invented in 1902, and are surprisingly still utilised (albeit uncommonly) in some form or another today. In all things from guitar amplifiers, because certain musicians prefer the way they distort the sound when pushed to their edge; to particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider, due to their resistance to the effects of high radio frequencies!
As a subject for photographing, I found them to be wonderful to work with, particularly in getting light to shine through them in new and exciting ways, especially given the physical characteristics of the windows with their horizontal slatting, and the cars moving in the distance.
The merits both photographs have: The colour photo really showcases the depth of the space I was shooting in, and just jumps off the screen. I asked several peers which photograph I should predominantly showcase, and the overwhelming majority said the colour one, for the pure and simple fact they just preferred it; however, I honestly prefer the desaturated image. The horizontal slats call my mind back to old film Noir, a genre I am particularly fond of, and I think the contrast between the blacks, whites, and greys call out the detail on the inside of the blown glass tube.
Whether my preference is better objectively, I don’t know, but I’m fascinated to know what others think.
For the shoot I used a vintage Bell & Howell telephoto lens, which quite frankly was absolutely awful. For literally any other use than being locked off and pointing at an interesting object, it would fail miserably, however in this instance it suited me and I quite enjoy manual lenses.
Before settling, I rejected two initial ideas. Note that I only ended up draft-shooting one of these ideas on my phone (pictured above), the other barely made it past a sketch in my notebook that thankfully, I will not be showcasing.
The sketched concept would have been a robot sculpture made of items I found on the street, bound together with a skeleton of steel wire. In the end I decided against this because it just wasn’t practical in the time that I allocated myself to complete this assignment, and while it would’ve been interesting from an artistic or sculptural perspective, it wouldn’t have showcased my developing skills as a photographer in any substantial way.
The concept shoot of the engraved watch I actually really, really love. The item itself is a treasured possession of mine, and thus wherein the problem lies… While it is technically a found item because I did find it in a charity shop, it was months before I even began attending university, and therefore doesn’t actually fit the criteria. Perhaps in another life.
I was interested in shooting this item purely because of the history it has. The watch is an expensive brand, custom engraved and given out to an employee in celebration of their long service. Perhaps I’m a sentimentalist, but the possible reasons it was left behind at a charity shop as opposed to being treasured by a family member intrigue me.
Thank you for reading.