CHARLES PHILIPPE AUGUSTE CAREY
In the mid 19th century, the still-life genre had begun to shift from painting to photography. Props became less symbolic, more literal. In Carey’s Still Life with Waterfowl, which pictures meticulously hung birds, a saucepan suggests that the waterfowl will become food. Gone are the more magnificent piles of animals present in paintings, which both represented status and served as vanitas (symbols hinting at death, decay, or ephemerality). This is a particularly elegant example of using food in its raw form as still life; other examples from this period often lacked the grace of the paintings they were emulating, and could seem cluttered and grotesque. His work is reflective of the time, but in a way, very ahead. Perhaps Carey was purposely trying to forge a different identity for the art of photography—moving away from the symbolism of food in painting, while simultaneously pulling on its legacy.