Memento Mori (Remember that you will also die) is a photo series created in 2021 while in an unnamed Asheville, North Carolina mansion estate.
The grounds around the mansion are esquisite with grass smooth as silk and statues that can transport the most jaded of viewers back in time which was quite fun. Getting the right angle as to not step on something important was much harder in some cases.
No Tripod, No Lights
All of my books have been without a tripod and additional lighting. This can make for complicated shots when the lighting is low and you don’t get much lower than a candlelit mansion. The ISO can only be pushed so far before you have just noise so it takes a very steady hand.
Pantries & Food
I have always loved grocery/food/prep space photos and there was quite a few of those in the mansion. This was the curing and canning room which had this lovely mix of blue mason jars and salted meats, if only there wasn’t reflective glass I could have got an even better shot.
Low light, high ISO, long shutters were just the start of the problems. Most of the rooms had a weird mix of daylight cool lighting mixed with warm candlelight. This made color correction much harder than it ideally would be. You can still see in this shot the slightly yellow ham which was even worse in the original shot.
I always loved still life paintings (especially Dutch artists like Willem Claesz. Heda) and try to create my own in photographs when possible. This one I would have loved to get other angles off as the crisp whites and silver played off the deep colors so well.
Still Life Paradox
Still life paintings always had this wonderful paradox between organic and rigid. Between objects that are alive with potential and almost immediate use but also frozen in a never changing and untouched state. Capturing that with the richness of Dutch painters like Willem Claesz. Heda is always a goal for me.
I love Clue and anything that can give me space to play with the icons, colors, themes or more I am more than game to and the mansion’s Billiards room was just that. Deeply rich with felt, wood, leather and more the photo gave a great dramatic vibe and was a fun room.
For me art is a lot of geometry, lots of shapes and leading lines that create rhythm and melody. This was full of it from the picture frames, table, & windows to the leading lines from the triangular lights, hanging bar, wall lines and more. a detailed arrangement of geometry.
Having the image foreshortening towards the viewer brings them into to space. Making the plastic but still delicious strawberry shortcake, and leafy greens looks just reachable and enticing. Having the copper pots and turkey bookend each side just makes everything rich and within your grasp.
When I was in Tokyo I got to see what the state of the art was in plastic “false” food. The variety and detail that they put into the foods creates object that are better than real, truer than true. It is an amazing art that honestly should get way more appreciation than it does.
I love this shot and the powder like qualities it brings almost like out of a Sofia Coppola or Wes Anderson film. The lavender, gold and purple create that lush makeup quality that makes you just want to drag your finger through it and feel the texture like a chalk painting out of Mary Poppins.
One of the great benefits of shooting in low light is you can get these amazing color castoffs that would normally be drowned out by stronger light sources. Here the powdery mix of gold, lavender, purple, cyan, yellow and grey mix so well in the low contrast.
Very few mountain ranges are like the Smokies in color and myst. The shafts of light layered in tiers of color, the dense and sparse fields. There is a reason locations were chosen back in the day when they built and it had little to do with real estate cost.
If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it.
Line and lines of light with elaborate iron railings with golden castoff light from the candles in the multi tiered chandeliers. Almost expecting Errol Flynn to show up and slide down them in a violent flurry of swords.
Getting the whites and blacks just right with a rich middle ground of saturated and desaturated greys is always the goal. It is like threading the needle with a pickup truck. You may not always do it but when you do it is a sight to see.
I love buttresses like this especially when they let so much light in. The mix of wood, glass and stone is quite impressive. With the conservatory plants and fountain placed all around the room it is quite lovely. This is the main room right off the entrance to the mansion and is perfectly placed as a central exchange of traffic.
Sometimes photos are just simple, this one for example. The sunlight was so strong that color correction wasn’t that much of an issue, there was enough light to get a low ISO sharp image and everything stayed pretty still for a handheld shot. It ended up great and was low stress. What more can you want?
Non Objective Blue & Gold
The curves and paisley detail of the lamp, tea set and tray created such a wonderful mix of objective and non objective space. Look too long and you can lose yourself in color and curve.
Objects that speak about owners
I love objects that speak about the personality of their owners, I always wanted to do a series of photographs of peoples fridge contents in low light for the same reason, every fridge is a curated mirror of the owner. These were a lovely representation of a elaborate almost paisley style that quickly brought to mind the Disney sensibility of Beauty & the Beast. Mixing the blue of the porcelain with the gold of the light created a rich and fun image.
Hiding in plain sight
Getting the exact right angle as to no appear in the mirrors and still have a visually pleasing geometry is a tight rope to walk especially in a bedroom full of reflective surfaces.
Give me a gold room, with gold chairs, a gold chase and gold side tables. Don’t forget gold accents and a gold floor but keep the trim pure white so people don’t think I am too obsessed.
It is interesting how this style became more aligned with luxury southern California mansions. Standing outside of it with the palm trees you would be excused thinking you were in the Hollywood Hills and not in the Smokey Mountains. Either way it is quite impressive to see in person.
I Got Nothin’
Move along…. Nothing to say here.
The irony is as beautiful the stonework is in the mansion as well as the interior design the absolute dominance of the colors, shapes, textures and more in the gardens dwarfs in beauty. An entire page could have been devoted to talking about the grounds and flowers. It is no surprise that the book is almost half the gardens.
Breathe Relax and Enjoy
Flowers, leaves, lilies, sculptures and water features can create such a beautiful mix of color and shape that can translate relaxation onto the viewer both in person (obviously) but also in photos. The entire point of this series was to capture the coldness of trying to live forever and the warmth of temporality. Live knowing you are dying every day for if you try to keep your life you will lose it and have nothing to show but cold stone and metal.