Keith Glassman, a native New Yorker born in Brooklyn, has lived most of his years in and around NYC. He then moved to Tel Aviv, Israel, where he maintains an impressive studio. In the 80’s he attended the Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, and in addition was mentored by a few of NYC’s still life masters.
1985 he began his career as a still life photographer. Keith shoots primarily for advertisements, catalogs, magazines, packaging, websites and corporate brochures. He is known for his keen sense of composition and lighting, and his eye for design, which he developed while growing up around the graphic design industry in NYC. He is recognized as being among the leading product photographers in Israel, and is a vanguard of composition among Israel’s commercial photography community. He has been called upon to create arrangements for many of Israel’s top magazines and corporations, often doing the styling himself, and on occasion coming up with the original concept.
He was greatly influenced by the work a number of prominent local still life photographers, especially the work of Phil Marco and Peggy and Ronald Barnett, whose work combined both sophisticated compositions with dramatic, intimate lighting. Other photographers whose work was influential to him were Arthur Beck and Dick Frank, and of course, Irving Penn, the master whose work has influenced generations of photographers had an impact on his style.
Most people see photographs of objects in advertisements, and magazines and catalogs, and don’t see beyond the objects themselves, about how they are arranged & composed, or how they are lit, or about the styling involved. The objects may as well have been just thrown down, and the photographer maybe moved them just a little and just clicked the camera. Not only is that just not the case, but photographing “still life” might be the most difficult and painstaking form of photography. It may seem an easy exercise, but it’s not. A still life setup can take hours to complete, and it’s often very tedious and frustrating. The subject matter in still life photographs is sometimes uninteresting, and the challenge may be to have it tell a story, or to communicate an idea, & of course be visually appealing. The viewer is drawn in and taken on a little tour, without him or her even being aware of it, and it often does so on a very subtle level, appealing to one’s senses in the
Product photography plays an important role in presenting consumer products & services to the buying public, and certainly product photography in particular is crucial to displaying things such as food & beverages, cosmetics & fragrances, apparel & accessories, jewelry, electronics and many other products to the market. Product photography is seen in advertising, magazines, catalogs & brochures, on television, on websites, on billboards, and on packaging. In a photo shoot the photographer is called upon to infuse as much life and atmosphere into a photograph as possible. The challenge is to capture a viewer’s attention and draw them into an advertisement, as opposed to turning the page on what is otherwise a boring or lowly object. This requires imagination from the art director as well as the photographer, and a team effort is important. The success of the product being advertised depends on the quality and clarity of the photograph.
The photograph is not just “taken”, but is completely created from scratch; what type of setting , which type of background to use, the type of lighting to use, what props to add, and of course the composition. All this contributes to the mood and overall tone of the image. Form, color, and texture are all considered throughout the process. Shooting still life is very demanding, and the photographer is expected to have a keen sense of lighting and have strong compositional skills, that together help him “make” the picture as opposed to just taking one. It’s the still life photographer’s control & careful arrangement of the photograph’s elements that achieve those goals, and allows the photograph to tell a story. That story often begins with a thought or vision in the head of the photographer or art director
While we understand the importance of still life photography in the commercial sense, we should recall it’s roots. Still life’s history, as with other forms of photography, originated in traditional painting techniques. It illustrates our culture, and goes beyond simply recording a scene. While people have been painting objects for thousands of years, serious still life painting only took off around the 1500’s, mainly in Northern Europe. For throughout the middle ages, art was supposed to serve Christianity, and you saw mostly biblical scenes in paintings. By the 17th century, still life became an art form in itself, especially in the Netherlands, and a sector of Dutch painting created a specialist form of still life, and raised it to the level of high fine art. The paintings were moody, rich in texture, and full of shadows. They were exercises in composition, and highly styled. Paintings like these were often done for wealthy buyers, looking to decorate their dining rooms.
There were a few still life photographers that over the last few decades really set the bar as far as art-influenced still life photography. By far, Irving Penn led the way. One of the great masters of photography, his work was clearly influenced by his background in painting & design.
Some inspiring quotes from prominent designers and photographers:
“A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart,
and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it; it is in
one word, effective.”
— Irving Penn
“If you look at a work of art, you can reengage reality once again…..”
— Milton Glaser
“A good picture must be a completely individual expression which
intrigues the viewer and forces him to think.”
— Alexey Brodovitch
“Photographing a cake can be art.”
— Irving Penn
“If it moves you to attentiveness it is art, and if it doesn’t, it’s
— Milton Glaser
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding
something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little
to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you
— Elliot Erwitt