Derek Israelsen's Pantry Project

In 1999, my wife and I bought my wife's grandmothers house. Each room was left neatly with the normal accumulation of 'things' after 40-years living in one place. Grandma Bolton was a spunky lady, and luckily we were able to get a glance into her past and learn about her life through her possessions.

A few weeks into the move, we happened upon a storage area in the basement stocked full of old food items and novelty cleaning products for long term storage - a typical occurrence for a Utah home. Grandma Bolton's storage appeared to have been started in the 70s. The vibrant design, colors, and oddity of the containers struck me immediately as a potential photo series. I picked my favorite from the stacks of collected items and set off to catalogue the treasures.


The shoot was simple — we placed each object directly the middle of the frame on a white laminate surface and photographed slightly below eye level with a wide Canon lens to give the product a 'heroic' look. We used two Dynalites; the first, a spotlight on the background with a grid and colored gel. The second, a small soft box pointing directly at the front.

I have found myself photographing still life and product shots for different clients over the years. Though creativity is necessary for making a inanimate object look appealing to the viewer, it often becomes just a task with a simple light construction and set-up-and-click attitude instead of an artistic view. In between jobs, I always find time to continue to shoot my own personal work. It is extremely important to me to use this time to try new things and learn more about my abilities as a creative photographer. I believe that every photographer should take time out each month to focus on creating a project for themselves.

There are still shelves full of Mountain House tin cans from the early 1970s tucked away in the basement. Who knows what else we have yet to find!

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November 2013