"The Kitchen Window” is a series of modern still life photography with the work of the Dutch Renaissance painters in mind and the household items handed down to me from generations of Dutch women in my family. I arrange and photograph flowers from my own garden and surrounding community to emphasize the diversity and beauty of the world around us. The flowers and garden specimens are collected based on when they bloom and ripen together; I rely on what I can pick with my own hands as much as possible.
The birds that accompany the flora in my photographs reflect the season as well. In the Spring many songbirds migrate through my city and lose their lives when they collide with the tall office buildings. I work closely with an Ornithologist who researches and collects these songbirds, and I have included them in the images with the flowers that are blooming at the time of the birds’ migration. I take my photographs using one window in my home for its natural light, in order to illuminate the fragility of the petals in the arrangements, or the feathers of the fallen birds. In other photographs I use natural elements such a skulls, feathers, eggs, nests, foraged mushrooms, and insects. In this sense I am both working with the natural order of the world and imposing my own order on it as I arrange nature’s gifts to suit my art.
Vermeer was an innkeeper and the father of 11 children and painted in one room within his own house. Just as he worked within the domestic context that surrounded him, I have taken as my subject the life that is right in front of me. My past and my heritage are in a sense given new life in Canada, the country where my grandparents settled. In this sense I create photographs that are neither old or new, neither local or international. The composition and the lighting are the same as the old masters painted in the 17th century, but the subject matter is fresh from my garden in a new country.
"The Kitchen Window" is a series about the cycle of nature as it happens around us. It is about living in one place when your roots are in another continent. It is about the domestic life that reflects the lives that have passed and the art that is made generation after generation.
Kristin Sjaarda is an avid gardener living in Toronto, Canada with her photographer husband and their three boys.