Precious Objects Artist Statement
Paired, framed images - the portrait of the sitter holding their self-chosen precious object alongside a full-size copy of a hand-written statement explaining their choice. These are things that the subject has had a long time, that hold special meaning and that they would not or could not replace. The sitter was given freedom in choice, dress, demeanor, form and content of the statement. The paper was laid out at an angle to allow either portrait or landscape orientation. The portraits in my studio were done on an 8x10 field camera. Sessions in seven other locations were done on 4x5. The wooden camera helps in making the process more comfortable for the sitter. While the portraiture is competent, every effort has been made to allow each subject to tell his or her own story with a minimum of direction or interpretation by me. I tried to minimize showing the participants previous subjects before the session. I would not allow people or pets (or body parts). I also attempted, with only partial success, discouraging things that were merely representative and easily replaced (family photos, Blackberries, etc).
This project began with a focus on my wanting to compare these things to contemporary consumer objects. It has evolved substantially in the making. The overall collection is not about what I think nor is it even about the objects. It looks at the personal search each subject makes through the stuff in their lives to discover the stories that link the objects to who they are today. My view returns in the curated selection of these subjects. It is impossible to ignore my own history or the things I love and respect. In some cases, participants knew what they wanted instantly. Some people never were able get there.
As the project progressed, there emerged a remarkable correlation between the shape of the written statements and the appearance of the portrait.
I am humbled by the stories of the 170 people in this project. Loli’s letters written by the mother she never knew, Trevis’ inmate card from 25 years ago and his current library card and Grace’s lovely little stuffed dog who survived her scarlet fever all represent the subjects courage and generosity in coming forward with their stories. While all three are challenges I never faced, they give life and perspective to the one’s that I have.