Exercise: Nigel Shafran

For this exercise we are asked to go to Nigel Shafran’s website and look at his series Washing-up as well as his other work.  Shafran’s Washing-up project can be seen here.  Although our course book talks about the captions that accompanies the images in this series, Shafran’s website does not feature them unfortunately. I did, however, find a site that featured a few images from this project with the accompanying captions, but when I went to access it today it had returned a “not found” message. Nevertheless I managed to find another blog that features three of Shafran’s images with captions: tiltshiftblog, which hopefully will still be around come assessment time.

  • Did it surprise you that this was taken by a man? Why?

I had come across this series when I was doing TAOP, and I do remember feeling quite amazed that a man would take photos of such a domestic scene. I think its a cultural perception that many of us have grown up with – that men don’t do housework, that cooking and dishes are women’s work. Thankfully that perception is changing though as we no longer have a sole breadwinner in the family, rather both man and woman need to go out and scrape together a decent living in this expensive world we live in. But there are parts of the world where this perception is still very much alive and well.

  • In your opinion does gender contribute to the creation of an image?

I think it does. Men and women see things differently and even if they both photograph the same subject, the end result would look completely different as a result of their different points of view and perceptions. I very much doubt that I would take photographs of my kitchen sink. Quite by chance today one of my fellow students, Richard Brown, posted this video about this very subject of different perceptions on the OCA Photography Level 1 Facebook Group.

  • What does this series achieve by not including people?

There is a sense of mystery created in this series by not featuring people. Even without referring to the captions, one is intrigued by the ever changing scenario around the sink, of the changing light – varying from natural light to fluorescent or tungsten to the little clues left that suggest the previous hours’ activities. With the captions such as “16th march 2000. 1.30pm Second photograph of the day. Breakfast crumpets and tea [mine with cottage cheese and honey, Ruth’s with Marmite with Jose and Claudio who I think washed-up]” though, we are left wondering what the meals looked like and who and where were the people eating them. As such it is a highly personal space, reflective of the people who live in that space. They do say that the kitchen is the heart of the home. By not including people in his images, Shafran is leaving the interpretation open to the viewer and creating more questions in the viewer’s mind than there are answers.

  • Do you regard them as interesting ‘still life’ compositions?

When I first saw the title of the project, I can remember thinking to myself – who on earth would want to create a series on washing up? But once I started viewing the images they began to grow on me. I was intrigued. The images were cheerful, humerous (in one of the images someone has taped the initials N and R behind the taps over the sink, maybe as a joke indicating that N = hot and R = cold). The “N” would be Nigel Shafran and the “R” would be his wife Ruth. It could very well be meant the other way around. The route one could take with signified and signifier here could be very interesting. Even though most of the photographs are taken from the same view point, the landscape changes continually and I think it is this variable factor that makes these compositions extremely interesting.

Reference List

Canon Australia. THE LAB: DECOY – A portrait session with a twist [vidcast, online] 03/11/2015. 3 mins 16 secs. https://youtu.be/F-TyPfYMDK8 (accessed 05/11/2015)

Reganechase (2012). Nigel Shafran, Washing Up [online] Tiltshiftblog. Available from: https://tiltshiftblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/nigel-shafran-washing-up/ [Accessed 5 November, 2015]


Nigel Shafran. Washing-up 2000 [2000] [online].  Available from: http://nigelshafran.com/category/washing-up-2000-2000/ [Accessed 2 November, 2015]

Sharon (2015). Still Life with Nigel Shafran [online]. WeAreOCA. Available from: http://weareoca.com/photography/still-life-with-nigel-shafran/ [Accessed 2 November, 2015]


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