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I found this photo today and really liked it, I'm interested in an analysis of this photograph I've chosen by Jan Groover.

Some questions are I have are what techniques are used in the creation and the composition of the photo. What ideas and concepts are involved?

It's quite a different photo so I'm interested to see what you guys think. The oranges definitely bring some vibrancy to the image.

edit: I was doing some more reading and found a good site if you want to read about her (biography) http://www.artnet.com/artists/jan-groover/

  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm Hopefully this is worded correctly. \$\endgroup\$
    – user82988
    May 19, 2019 at 23:31

1 Answer 1


Without going into detail, which is probably a bit more involved than what stack exchange is designed to do, at the most basic level Groover appears to have used most of the collective knowledge gleaned from centuries of artistic painters, particularly those concerned with still lifes, about:

  • How the qualities of light (things like color, softness or hardness, angle, etc.) affect a scene and how the things in the scene look
  • The arrangement of items in the scene and how they lead the eye around the frame of the finished painting or photograph

The big difference, of course, is that a painter can take artistic license with a scene and alter certain things to fit their purpose. A photographer, on the other hand, must actually create the scene in the way they wish their final image to appear. At least a "pure" photographer such as Groover would insist on doing so, rather than rearranging the items and upsetting the subtle interplay of shadows and light on each object later on using Photoshop or a similar graphic design program to radically alter the image more or less as it was captured.

That's not to say, though, that her images are "straight out of camera." The distinctive looks of the prints of what she captured had as much to do with the printing processes and papers she used as they did with what her developed negatives looked like.

Using large format film cameras allowed her to take advantage of the movements allowed by such cameras to alter the angle of the plane of focus with respect to the film plane and show the objects in the scenes she photographed as all in more or less the same amount of focus, the same way a painter would. Her printing techniques also tended to minimize the differences between those thing in sharpest focus and those things closer to the edge of the camera's depth of field. There are a few exceptions to this, such as Untitled, 1990, in her body of work.

There are volumes upon volumes that have been written about the history of painting still lifes. Groover would have studied some of them during her training as a painter before she took up photography.

A good place to start regarding her process might be Jan Groovers book Pure Invention: the Table Top Still Life - Photographs By Jan Groover. It was part of a "Photographers at Work" series published by the Smithsonian Institution. Each book included not only photographs, but also extended interviews with the photographer that delved into their methods and approach. From Library Journal (as quoted in the product description at amazon):

As Groover notes in Pure Invention , photography lends itself to division by genre, and it is along these lines that this new series, "Photographers at Work," is organized. The first four installments... each contain an interview, a portfolio of images, and a biographical essay augmented with an occasional technical note. Interview sections average 15 pages and succeed through well-phrased questions in eliciting technical information, as well as the photographers' thoughts on the image-making process. The format works well to integrate text and plates. Groover, known for her "constructed" still lifes, uses the platinum-palladium process, which renders a wide range of soft greys, giving her images the appearance of "relics" from some unknown culture, e.g., the image of a marble column on top of which sit a metal box, two apples, a rusty instrument of unknown function, and a seashell.

A good source for an overall look at composition for photography is Michael Freeman's The Photographer's Eye, which has been published in various editions over the years. Any of the editions beginning with the first "digital" version in 2007 are great.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ineedhelp Well, the interview/introduction to her book mentioned above is 15 pages, which is far too long for this format, and only scratches the surface of how she made her prints. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    May 20, 2019 at 21:55

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