Cosmetic photographer Joe Saraceno and creative director Wilson Wong tell us about the creation of the set design behind his clean and simplistic still life photography and openly explain their use of balancing light and objects to create appealing compositions.
Would you be able to explain your style of still life photography for us?
Joe Saraceno: I try to in still as much personality in my subjects as possible, so whether it’s accessories, cosmetics or other objects, I try to give them life for the time I have with them on set. I used to think “the more the better”, either with light or subjects on set. As I’ve progressed throughout my career, I’ve found that simplicity and an over all calmness is my main focus now. I have definitely developed a more minimalistic style which works for me.
Why did you chose these Hermès objects for this still life design? 
Wilson Wong: The theme of the series is ‘juxtaposition’. By using everyday objects from big-box home improvement stores and mixing them with pieces from Hermès, I am exploring the tension between utilitarian items and opulent products.
Did you find it somewhat difficult to balance the objects within this composition? 
Wilson Wong: Balancing the objects and creating an appealing composition is the best part, as well as the fun part of the whole process. It was challenging at times, and it was definitely time consuming and labor-intensive. But that’s what it takes to create beautiful still life images and the end results are well worth the energy and effort.
How did you manage to create a limited shadow effect and space throughout these images?
Joe Saraceno: When I light a subject, or set, I prefer to have a sense of direction with light through the space. I balance my lights to have one main light and the rest are used for highlights and fill in. I’m not a fan of double shadows, so Photoshop is used to edit any ghosting or double shadows.
The creative direction of your photography is driven by the layout of the objects; is every object planned and placed precisely for effect? Or do you play around with the objects?
Wilson Wong: The layout and the composition was planned ahead, all the objects were placed strategically. But, of course, there were a couple of obstacles and things didn’t always turn out the way I had planned it. You just have to be fluid and be change-willing.
How do you go about finding an ideal amount of objects with contrasting textures and colours for the formation?
Wilson Wong: Several chosen elements were used through out the series, such as marble, wood, metal and mirrors. The objective was to use the contrasting textures and surfaces as a thread to pull the whole story together, while keeping the chromaticity to a minimum at the same time. The subtle tone of the background and the objects acted as an anchor for the beautifully crafted pieces from Hermès. The shimmering metal pipes were utilised to draw the viewer’s attention to the metallic details of the tableware.
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