I've always adored the flat lay trend that fashion Instagrammers often use to show off what pieces they'd put together for different occasions. There's something about seeing clothes and accessories without any distractions that makes for such a purposeful photograph. I then saw it happening in other ways with food or crayons or books or flowers.
The first flay lay I posted was a composition of strawberries on a cutting board. They made me smile a bit, but also jogged my mind. I enjoyed moving the berries around, chopping them to different sizes and setting them up in different shapes. I realized, I was creating in a way that was different, casual, and still important.
So, I've quickly become addicted to flat lays. I've made them here and there and everywhere. I've used them to create characters for a short story I'm writing and to bring together colors that I just can't stop swooning over. I've realized the flat lay offers more benefits than a pretty picture and lots of likes. Benefits that look like:
DOCUMENTING YOUR PROGRESS.
All those pages you've covered in red ink edits and the paintings you just finished tearing through are begging for you to treasure them. You deserve to pat yourself on the back a time or two for your progress and what better way to do so than to spread out your work. It promises an instant reward as you get to pour over the distance you've traveled rather than a focus on how far you feel you've got to go.
RECOGNIZING TRENDS IN YOUR LIFE.
Trends come and go, the dictionary tells us that. And so, things come in and out of our lives and our interests at a fast and furious pace. I've found that as I'm pulling together a flat lay the things that I'm currently loving sort of explode into obviousness. Right now it's black and white and red all over, it's books and typography and color on black backgrounds, it's our white farm table and the wide cracks between its planks. This too will pass, but for now I get to appreciate it because I see the trend.
MORE THOROUGH CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.
I'm writing a short story with a dark, mysterious, starving artist of a woman. I was struggling with her personality and her image so I made a flat lay for her. The dark background reflective of her history, the color choices in the frame particular to her role in the tale. I see her there, even though there isn't a person.
ADDING PERSONALITY TO PICTURES.
Sometimes I add myself to typography pictures by including what is on my desk or table at the moment. Obviously, I wish my pictures always had a cookie and coffee in them, but they don't so the picture is quickly made into a temporal piece. There's something so lovely about seeing a solid truth (you owe it to yourself) and what you're loving now.
ROLLING OUT OF A CREATIVE RUT.
When I get really bogged down in the creative process, I pick a color and pull together a flat lay that demonstrates it. I move the pieces around until the rolls of tape and the mint boot all come together in a way that's comfortable to me. Not pictured are the discarded objects that are stacked on the table outside the frame.
It all boils down to this: When making a flat lay there are conscious decisions about what's included, where the shot cuts off, how the colors and textures of the pieces interact with one another. And in realizing the thought process behind your picture, you are making art.