For those that know me and follow my other channels of interest, Mudlarking is one of my pursuits. By definition, a Mudlark is someone who would search the muddy shores of the River Thames at low tide for anything that could be sold. To become a Mudlark was a choice dictated by poverty of lack of skills. Well, there’s a lot to it. I have dug the shores in London a few times and found remarkable things (mostly broken pottery, no Elizabethan jewelry yet). A few years ago, I did document one of the sessions in a purposefully, plain manner on a neutral background to concentrate on shape and form. It was a great exercise as a photographer – how best to photograph an array of odds, to make sense as a whole?
A recent Mudlark on the banks of the Delaware River unearthed handfuls of spark plugs, and ceramic bits of old electrical equipment. This pursuit, despite the excitement of finding something unusual, does make you think about recycling, and illegal dumping – if not littering apathy.
I wanted to photograph this set differently than I had in the past. I tried many different backgrounds: a plain light brown card, a very old wooden floorboard, black velvet. None of it worked. Sometimes finding the right background for the object is more difficult than making the photograph itself – if it isn’t immediately obvious. I settled on using my worn out shop stool as the background, needing the bright color and distressed paint to enhance the plain white ceramic parts. It seemed fitting for this.
These are all natural light images, only using a diffuser on the south facing window and a white board to bounce more light on one side. The best light, truly is natural light.
One of my favorite finds was the old A-Treat twist off bottle, filled with river mud and a plant growing out of it. The type reads, NO DEPOSIT on one face, and NO REFUND on the other.
So how best to display all the finds when all are of a different scale, texture, lightness, darkness, matte or glazed finish? Perhaps in a mason jar filled with water. Admittedly, an above view of all the geometry tells the story quickly.
If you ever thought product photography was simple, it really isn’t. Whether the product is a relic or is new, much thinking goes into the what and why for the image to make sense.