Birgit’s post and subsequent discussion on Giorgio Morandi has inspired me to try my hand at the same subject using photography. Not with the goal of trying to create an imitation Morandi, but more as an exploration for myself of some of the same ideas I see and enjoy in his paintings. I don’t claim these are necessarily Morandi’s ideas, but I think the process will certainly help me understand his work better. Essentially, I am taking up again the concept of studio as laboratory.

Here I present my first attempt, having had so far just a half-hour stolen from Thanksgiving activities yesterday. I grabbed a few bottles lying about and cleared off a table, though I didn’t manage to set up a simple background (hence the crop to remove distracting elements). I was primarily interested in playing with elusive boundaries. In the arrangement I photographed, the two blue bottles on the left merge (can you tell which is in front?), and the green bottle on the right merges with both the olive oil-filled bottle and the dark part of the background.¬† (The degree to which these remain slightly distinguishable will depend on your monitor settings; on my laptop, it depends quite noticeably on angle of view.)

One of the fun aspects of this micro-project was working with the color in relatively large patches. In this set-up, the colors were relatively dark compared with Morandi’s. Like his, they are partially de-saturated. This is a combination I happen to like, but I definitely want to try lighter colors also. Another aspect I enjoyed was the highlights and refracted lights, the simultaneous reflectivity and transparency. This is absent from Morandi’s work; he painted his bottles before painting the pictures, I presume to avoid these higher contrasts, as well as to provide the colors he wanted.

I photographed from a similar viewpoint as Morandi’s, well above the level of the table. The physical optics then dictated that the edges of the bottles were not parallel to the edges of the image, appearing to lean outward. I corrected this digitally to get the same distortion that Morandi preferred, whether intuitively or deliberately. I hadn’t been consciously aware of this earlier when looking at Morandi’s paintings, but I think it may contribute to the sense of “naive” simplicity that I get from his work.

As the title implies, I’m hoping to continue with this series. I’ve removed labels from a few more bottles, and am looking around for boxes or similar objects to add. Do you have any suggestions, or experiments to propose for this laboratory?