SAVEUR - - Eat The World -

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.

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