Visit Art Exhibition – “Trash to Treasure” by Melanie Paice

This exhibition, at the Robert Phillips Gallery, Riverhouse Arts Centre, Walton-on-Thames, centred on the use of materials that would normally end up in landfill; the paintings and drawings are on old ceramic tiles and slate and the sculptures are fashioned from broken incandescent light bulbs.  On entering the exhibition I was immediately struck by the urge to photograph the sculptures which were arranged on tables and, more striking, as ‘swarms’ hanging from frames suspended from the rafters.  I saw this opportunity as a challenge as it was in a very bright, white environment lit by a multitude of spotlights, all at varying angles, something I had not tackled before.  Also I had my camera with me “just in case” so was armed with just the trusty 50mm f/1.4 lens and everything was to be shot handheld.  There was also the issue of shooting when there was clear line of sight as people moved around the exhibits.  Having obtained permission to photograph I set about the task.

These two shots seemed fairly straightforward as far as what I was trying to achieve, show the artist with examples of her work.  However, the outcome illustrates the problem I was having  with achieving consistency in the lighting conditions; my after action review points to the advantage of using Manual for consistency.

These two shots illustrate the origins of the sculptures and the intricate detail of winding the filament wires to form the elements of the “bugs”, making each one unique.  As far as the shots are concerned, again the lack of consistency in the whites of each shot is very evident albeit I did use the ‘expose to the right’ principle.  Treating this as a still life photo in an ideal world would have involved use of a tripod and reflectors; this is an area for further practice.

As I intimated at the start, the ‘swarms’ were very striking, forming 3D sculptures; obviously a great deal of effort went into the arrangement to create the effect.  When photographing these I sought to use depth of field to best effect as well as capturing the light reflected off the nylon line used to suspend each ‘bug’ in the formation.  When reviewing these shots after the event I was taken by the fact that each ‘bug’ had, in effect, a face formed by the solder contacts or clever use of the filaments; note to self, pay more attention to detail when viewing things lest you miss an opportunity.

I really enjoyed this exhibition and was very much taken by the innovative use of “Trash” to produce some striking artworks and sculptures.  It provided me with the opportunity to try shooting in an unfamiliar environment as well as capturing some unusual subjects.  Clearly still life is a challenging subject area, particularly when it is attempted in a restricted environment. My thanks to Melanie for inviting me to her exhibition and then allowing me to “get in the way”.


Paice, M. (2013) Trash to Treasure. Walton-on-Thames: The Robert Phillips Gallery. 15-26 May 2013.


Freeman, M. (2009) Perfect exposure. Lewes: Ilex

Prakel, D. (2009) Basics photography 07, Exposure. Lausanne: AVA Publishing




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