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A Dream of Bubbles

A photo shoot using still life symbolism in fine art portraiture.

I recently had the opportunity to do a photo shoot in Greenwood Memorial Terrace. Established in 1888, the cemetery has a lot of old character. Like most of my shoots at interesting locations, I booked the photo shoot before even having an idea of what I wanted to photograph. I just knew I had to create an image there.

Lately I've been researching symbolism in still life paintings. I'm drawn to the idea of hidden meanings within works of art. I decided to add some of that symbolism to my portraits. Specifically, symbols of life and death. A reoccurring theme in a lot of my images is the concept of Memento Mori, the Latin phrase meaning "remember that you will die". So it was fitting that this photo shoot would be taking place in a cemetery.

To further expand on the Memento Mori concept, I wanted to add another element. Brainstorming what element to add was a little tricky. I didn't want the meaning to be obvious, with skulls and bones laying around. I wanted something softer, dreamier. So I started researching more and during my research I discovered the symbolism of bubbles. From the website they explain, “Bubbles, in still life, mostly represent the shortness of life and the abruptness of death. As bubbles are fragile and short-lived and also they go off suddenly into nothing. Thus, to represent the uncertainty of life and suddenness of death, bubbles are the perfect example.” The idea of bubbles in a cemetery is so unexpected, yet the meaning behind it makes complete sense. This is the perfect symbolism for the image I wanted to create.

So now that I had an idea of what I wanted to photograph at Greenwood, I contacted my friend and fellow photographer, Anna Mauth. We recently agreed to use each other as models for our next photo shoot, and she is the perfect model for what I had in mind.

We took some pictures at various different headstones and statues before setting up the scene at the beautiful White mausoleum. The orange leaves scattered along the steps was picturesque all on its own. I asked Anna to stand in the center, while my sister used a bubble gun off to the right, allowing bubbles to cascade into the shot (Yes those are real bubbles!). The final image was exactly what I had envisioned. A beautiful combination of dark and light, reality and dreams, sadness and fairy tales.

Using symbolism to create this image has me excited for future shoots. The possibilities for creating dream-like, fantasy images with hidden meanings is endless. Bees, books, candles, clocks, and more, are all things I'd love to incorporate into images. Keep an eye out for some symbolism in my future photos! ;)

Watch the behind the scenes video here!

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