A lavish floral still life by Emily Minton Redfield takes cues from iconic works by 16th- and 17th-century Dutch painters. All photos by Emily Minton Redfield Home

Denver-based professional photographer—and frequent 5280 Home contributor—Emily Minton Redfield shares the creative outlet that has kept her busy behind the lens during this stay-at-home season.

Ever since Emily Minton Redfield spent five post-university months traveling across Southeast Asia with a camera around her neck, photography has been the medium through which she explores the world. For nearly three decades, her sweet spot has been photographing the work of talented architects and interior designers for publications including this one—until the COVID-19 pandemic forced her, like all of us, to slow down and stay put. The unexpected but welcome benefit? “Getting off the hamster wheel enabled me to tap into some hidden creativity that had been suppressed by work, my social life, juggling teenagers’ schedules, travel, and more, which all came to a screeching halt during our stay-at-home time,” she says. In particular, she began experimenting with still life photography, the story and gorgeous results of which she shares here:

5280 Home : What inspired you to shift your focus from the expansive living spaces you so often capture to the more intricate, intimate moments portrayed in your still life images?
Emily Minton Redfield: Two things led me to the still life creations: More and more, I’ve loved to play with flower-arranging—an assignment I often have during photo shoots—and flowers just bring me joy. I also remembered that, as our family was touring museums in Europe the summer before last, I saw paintings by some of the Dutch masters in more of a photographic way. That was where the idea germinated. I made a Pinterest board of some of the 16th- and 17th-century Dutch still life paintings I liked—flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem and table settings by Pieter Claesz, among others—and riffed off their ideas without outright copying. To your eye, what makes for a successful still life—and what is your process for getting there?
For me, it’s about filling the frame in a pleasing way and creating flow for your eye to feast on various visual treats throughout [the composition]. Because I tether to my large laptop while shooting, I can really tweak each flower, bug, or branch to get it in the right spot.

The other essential element is getting the lighting to be dark and dramatic, as it is in the Dutch works. I set up a studio in my bedroom where I had lots of space, turned off all the lights, closed all the blinds—except for one crack in a curtain with light coming from the side—and my exposure time was like 13 seconds. My family would walk in and marvel that I was creating these things in near darkness. Do you gather each composition’s “ingredients” with a plan in mind?
The wholesale florist was still open during the quarantine, so I was able to source my flowers there. I […]