from John Wood’s introduction in “The Perfect World of David Halliday” with assorted texts
November 20, 2012 § Leave a comment
David Halliday, I am certain, is the greatest master of the still life that photography has yet produced. But more than that he is probably the great photographer of joy, as well. I am talking here of serious joy—not an armload of puppies, a kitten in a ladle of pasta, kissing children, or anything to which the word cute might be applied. Though joyful, his work has about it the seriousness of the spiritual. His imagery is constructed from many of life’s most perfect, simple, yet most elemental objects—the rose, the egg, the bottle of milk, the loaf of bread. In his photographs these things transcend their objectivity to partake of the world of symbol and subjectivity. When we look at Halliday’s rose, bread, or milk, our responses are intensely subjective; we are moved because he has caught those objects that mean more to us and carry more personal associations than most of the world’s other things. His is a pared down art—minimal in the sense of being reduced to the essentials but maximal in its emotional impact. He finds the most existential of things to photograph, those things humanity would not want to live without. I am not speaking literally of food or flowers, but what those things represent to us, what they mean to us on a deeper level. Without the rose, how could we speak of love, of the mystical, or of anything that demands the notion of “flowering”? Without bread, what is our metaphor for the things we need to sustain us through life? And was it not that most symbolic yet most elemental of milks, the milk of human kindness, we first nursed at our mothers’ breasts?