Picture Perfect

By Helen Rosner

Published on December 26, 2013

At first glance, I could have sworn I was looking at an oil painting by a Flemish master circa 1650. But no, the still life in front of me was contemporary—and it was a photograph, one of an ongoing series constructed and shot by artist Paulette Tavormina in her New York City studio. For each image, Tavormina scours farmers' markets for fruit, sources 17th-century Dutch tableware from antique dealers, and keeps her eyes peeled for props. (The photo above, “Lemons and Pomegranates,” includes a butterfly she found on the street and a bee from her brother's hives.) While the scenes Tavormina builds are meant to evoke 400-year-old masterworks, she's occasionally willing to sacrifice historical accuracy for visual appeal: “If I find something that I just fall in love with and I know they didn't eat it in Holland in the 1600s,” she says, “well, that's okay.”

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