Photographer Denise Weldon Captures The Aesthetic Of Stillness In Everyday Objects
Take the photos of cotton sheets bathed in blue light. Minutely shot, the sheets resemble a mountain landscape at dusk with its ridges and creeks falling into shadow. The photo’s tranquility allows the eye to focus on the cloth’s texture with its tiny creases and folds that can act as points of meditation to channel focus and mindfulness.
The other photos in the series display the same kind of confident equanimity. There are the two bone-white gourds placed askew on cloth with their dried stems sticking out like crooked, wizened fingers. The gourd’s mottled and wrinkly skin is not hidden from view but shown prominently next to another one with its spots of decay also displayed like battle scars. This reflects Weldon’s fascination with the cycles of life and death in nature as with the Latin phrase, natura viva e natura mora. She says, “The photography I like to capture is one in which it elicits that same beauty and awe of nature and allows the viewer to sense that.”
Weldon—a fine arts graduate of Wheaton College in Massachusetts—majored in photography. She is an experienced commercial and editorial photographer in the Asian region and uses a mix of cameras: Phase One, Nikon, Fuji, and Canon. Under her lens, household staples attain sculptural stillness. A lemon placed at the centre of a photo is tilted to the left but lighted from the right casting a painterly effect to the colour of the fruit. Weldon’s fine art practice has always looked closely at these details that are usually treated with indifference. No grand gestures are intended and none are needed when the desire is to capture the silence of being in the moment.
Silence in art forms goes as far back as when Beethoven inserted pauses in his scores. It is the artist’s role to pay attention. The work is sometimes a reflection of where you are in life as you ponder where it is taking you and its nuances, she explains.
In her previous work, she shot a collection of black-and-white photos of water in its various forms, patterns, and contexts. For this series shown during Art Fair Philippines, she gathered images and ideas while travelling in between destinations. There are purple wildflowers laid down on a flat surface with the top of the flower mimicking the patterns of the leaves below it. In another, stems of small white flowers are placed on a glass filled with water taken in a group or in extreme detail showing its lines of green veins with parts of the flower tinted in what seems to be blue light. There is an imperfection to the flowers that is appealing, assuring the viewer they are looking at real ones that will soon exhaust themselves and die. A photo called Morning Tea Light and Shadows is a shot of shadows casting an abstract image on a textured background. One wonders what object is coming between the rays of light and the surface.
The collection’s most striking images show the dichotomies present in Weldon’s work. A withering banana blossom with its interior peeking out in wavy strands is both about decay and ripening of experience. At its freshest peak, the blossom is maroon red and closed as a straightjacket but when it begins to disintegrate, it opens up to movement as its leaves turn gray and curl open to reveal what it keeps hidden inside. At another angle, she shoots the dried tropical vegetable lying down a dark background almost shaped like a flaming heart—an image found in religious iconographies—like its name in the Tagalog language, which translates to the heart of a banana. Weldon is also a meditation practitioner and teacher which influences the way she approaches her fine art work. On shooting the banana blossom, she says, “After a few days it was starting to change so I wondered what would happen to it. It was part of the magic of transformation and that was what I was enjoying in the process. We are all in the constant state of defining and redefining, of being and dissolving.”
It interests her to know who are the people attracted to her subjects and how they display it in their homes. She says, “I hope it provides certain respite and calm.” In a world where the easiest thing is to drown in noise, making time for such silences can be a radical choice.
This article was originally published in Philippine Tatler Homes Vol 23. To bring you all the latest interior trends and practical advice for styling your home, subscribe to Philippine Tatler Homes through here.
- Words Josephine V. Roque