This is my series of work, Ophelia’s Garden. It was a series that I started at the beginning of COVID really when I started to explore still life work. It’s something that I taught myself—spending as much time as we were at home, I moved my photography inside to a studio.
One of the things that I was finding really constraining about my still lives was the inability to get real movement in them, so what I did was moved the still life underwater. I set up a fish tank, I fill it with water, and then I do the still life arrangement in the water and then photograph through the water. This gave them a sense of movement and life, it allowed the fabrics to actually move and float, and also gave sort of a 3 dimensional sense that you don’t get when you are creating a still life normally with photography. So I’m really pleased and excited with the way this has come together to create a still life with movement and depth.
Where do the flowers come from?
All of the flowers are flowers that I grow myself. I’ve been living on my farm which is where I have quite a large garden, as is obvious from the amount of different flowers that I use. I have a lot of roses in particular. But one of the things I also started to do is actually plant some of the flowers I want for my art, which makes a lot of these images actually six months in the planning because you have to plant the seeds, grow the flowers, pick them, and then obviously use them for the still lives.
What was the main inspiration or goal for this body of work?
The real inspiration that brought this work together was Ophelia from ‘Hamlet’. I really wanted to spend some time exploring all the emotion, the love, the loss that went underneath and into her story. It was really brought to life, I think, in the Pre-Raphaelite paintings around Ophelia, so what I wanted to do was use that as my inspiration and jumping off point and then explore the themes of love, loss, emotion through my artwork.
So all of the titles of the work are different versions of the words love and emotion but importantly they all represent something really special or significant about the image themselves. For example there’s one image called ‘Fairy Tale; and the roses that I use in that are called Fairy Tale Queen, so it kind of picks up on the thematic of Ophelia’s Garden, but also brings to life the flowers themselves and the meaning they have.
Do you do any kind of editing to the images?
All of the works are created in my studio at home. And when we say studio, that’s a fancy word for what is really my dining room. I don’t use any kind of artificial light—I use just the light that comes in from the windows so they’re mostly shot early in the morning because I like the light at that certain time of day and angle and softness, with just enough brilliant to pick up and create little sparks of light in the images.
All of them are photographed with a digital camera. They have then had some editing—particularly with the dark backgrounds, there’s been a lot of masking to get the real depth and the blacks in the images, but really only light touch editing. Pretty much all of them are as shot, reframed, and then just a little bit of masking editing to enhance each of the images, but certainly nothing has been layered in. All of the images are as shot, as set up, and as created as a still life.
Jocelyn Turner’s exhibition ‘Ophelia’s Garden’ is on in our Cato Gallery until 28 June, and available to view online here until the end of 2022.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
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