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Self-absented portraiture

Question: Do you regard them [‘Washing-up’ by Nigel Shafran] as interesting ‘still life’ compositions?

Yes, there is much of interest in the series. For example the group of six images (see figs. 1 to 6.) that are of the same sink area after the washing-up has been completed, but taken at different times of the day (one at night, see fig. 3.) and consequently in different light. In one image (see fig. 1.) a red teapot sits, its strong colour having only the yellow of some gloves and a tall candle on the windowsill for competition. But in another image of this group (see fig. 5.) the place of the tea pot in the composition is literally upended and it now forms part of an ensemble of colours with the yellow of the gloves and the green of the basin. Looking at another image (see fig. 4.) the green basin is now banished and almost hidden in the recess of the sink, the yellow of the gloves is in shadow and the mauve dome of an upturned bowl holds the composition and the eye. In a photograph taken in the strong light of morning (see fig. 6) the colour is bleached from the green basin leaving the yellow of the gloves isolated in the composition.

One photograph has a long paper-wrapped bunch of cut flowers standing in the sink (see fig. 2.). This composition when considered in the light of the others shows the flowers as a disruptive element, almost cutting the image in two, almost fitting in but not quite able to match with the mauve of the upturned bowl. The flowers are truly something that does not belong, not a man-made object and consequently an aberration within these other cold depictions of aftermath (in this group from the series the small pot plant on the windowsill appears to be struggling for a foot hold). The descriptive title to this image humanises it – the flowers are ‘for Lillie Donaldson’s 13th birthday’ – and shows the everyday objects and process shown in the images of this series to have a purpose, to be in the service of something, and that something is the gentle living of lives, those of Shafran, his family and friends.


Shafran, Nigel (s.d) Washing-up At: http://www.nigelshafran.com/pages/washing_up_pages/001washing_up_pages.html (Accessed on: 08.02.15)

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Shafran, Nigel (2000) 4th January 2000. Three bean soup, cauliflower vegetable cheese. Morning coffee and croissants. At: http://www.nigelshafran.com/pages/washing_up_pages/001washing_up_pages.html (Accessed on 08.02.15)

Figure 2. Shafran, Nigel (2000) 30th January 2000. Flowers for Lillie Donaldson’s 13th birthday. Crumpets and rosehip tea, left-over squash, pepper soup, homemade pizza. At:  http://www.nigelshafran.com/pages/washing_up_pages/003washing_up_pages.html (Accessed on 08.02.15)

Figure 3. Shafran, Nigel (2000) 31st January 2000.  Horrible crumpets and Jill’s jam, rosehip tea, smoked salmon on bread and alphalfa sprout salad, apple, left over veg haggis, and seitan spinach and burnt rice to come! At:  http://www.nigelshafran.com/pages/washing_up_pages/004washing_up_pages.html (Accessed on 08.02.15)

Figure 4. Shafran, Nigel (2000) 19th February 2000.  Toast, smoked salmon sandwich,Thai coconut veg and rice with Dave [Ruth at Charlotte’s tonight] At: http://www.nigelshafran.com/pages/washing_up_pages/008washing_up_pages.html (Accessed on 08.02.15)

Figure 5. Shafran, Nigel (2000) 16th march 2000. 1.30pm Second photograph of the day. Breakfast crumpets and tea [mine with cottage cheese and honey, Ruth’s with Marmite with Jose and Claudio who I think washed-up] At: http://www.nigelshafran.com/pages/washing_up_pages/009washing_up_pages.html (Accessed on 08.02.15)

Figure 6. Shafran, Nigel (2000) 27th June. Muesli, cheese sandwich at darkroom, Ruth back from Leeds, vegeterian restaurant, Blah blah blah, Shepherds Bush At: http://www.nigelshafran.com/pages/washing_up_pages/013washing_up_pages.html (Accessed on 08.02.15)