I’ve just started reading The Vexations of Art by Svetlana Alpers, in which she draws an analogy between the artist’s studio and the scientific laboratory, both arising at a time (17th C.) when there was a “change in emphasis from theory to practice, or from science considered primarily as the formation of natural laws to science as the making of experiments.”
English (Baconian) experimentation and Dutch descriptive painting share a perceptual or visual metaphor of knowledge of the world. Though they both represent the world, neither is transparent to it. In one case it is represented by a technology such as that of the lens, in the other by painting itself.
The predominance of the studio setting lasted at least until the Impressionists, and in many ways still reigns. It is a place where the artist can control the reality to be dealt with, can establish a desired relationship with it. This can have very powerful advantages for a painter, photographer, or any other artist. I’m thinking that I should be doing more in the studio myself.
I have done almost all my photographing outdoors, with the exception of a still life of pears, inspired by Hanneke’s drawing. The version above is a digital simulation of a print on tinted paper, which is something I still plan to experiment with. Having control of the spatial arrangement and the lighting of the pears enables me, in principle, to try out ideas that are much harder to find appropriate realizations of in the natural world.
I’d say the ideas in this particular image are not especially deep, but I’ve recently tried some unconventional landscapes that might have greater potential. I might be able to pursue these more easily and quickly if I worked on studio setups. Of course, I also love getting to know the land around me and the serendipitous opportunities that come my way. But ideas also matter; in a sense, when my practice is out in the world, the studio could be a place to develop more the theoretical side of what I do.
In an earlier comment, I mentioned Carlo Chiarenza as a photographer who ended up photographing exclusively his skillfully lit arrangements of paper and other materials that became abstract landscapes. I can’t see myself going that far, but I think I could learn a lot about photographing real landscapes by photographing artificial ones, or rather still lifes that present similar issues and possibilities. Plus I have a couple ideas for projects that are inherently studio-based (though both have significant uncontrolled elements).
If you work in a studio: why? Yes, your preferred type of art may virtually require a studio setting, but then I ask, is the preference influenced by the studio amenities? On the other hand, what determines when you work outside the studio? How do you balance, if you do both?