A while back I read this piece by Edith Young about the trend of stacked objects in still life photography – Man Repeller is more or less correct about everything on earth, but I’d like to expand this trend to piles and structures of all kinds. Consider it a playful way of arranging objects, like you’d construct works of art with building blocks or legos. It’s cropping up in every facet of still life photography, from interior design to food, and of course beauty.
Beauty always exists on a spectrum with other cultural expressions, and if I’m honest the tendency to arrange your skincare like the tower of babel hasn’t caught on quite as firmly in the cosmetics world. We’re still very much living in a world of flatlays, shelfies and lipstick smears.
That said, I predict it’s only a matter of time before this trend spreads from the sphere of interior design, art, and food photography, where the practice of stacking objects into sculptural arrangements has a stronger presence thus far.
Perhaps these precarious constructs are symptomatic of our destabilized world – ungrounded. Or perhaps it’s about childish escapism from a traumatic version of adulthood. I’m sure you’ve heard of the meditation technique of stone stacking, where one gently balances stones into still towers. It’s a mindfulness exercise that demands both patience and concentration – more than I can offer, to be frank.
I’ve attempted some balancing of myself, but to be honest I’ve had moderate success – it’s hard to get products to stay! I think a bit of double-sided tape might be in order. Of course, there’s a variety of arrangements to try – a regular one-thing-on-top-of-the-other tower, or a tightly constructed wall of skincare. More freeform, sculptural arrangements are another option that I’m interested to try to lighten up my feed. You might say I’m overthinking my instagram photos, but please understand that it’s one of few pleasures in my life right now.
If you need me, I’ll be building a palace out of lipstick tubes.