We collect things. Most of them we stumble upon; others we seek out. Some of these things have value, but usually we like the way they look or feel or they remind us of something or someone special, so our home becomes their new home for a while. We also like to learn about things that other people collect. Talking to another person about their collection and handling the items is an intimate way to gain insight into that person because there is usually a story that goes along with each piece.
We occasionally use one or more of our objects in our photographs, but decided that we wanted to do a series using nothing but objects - a still life series. Maybe it was a way to justify our collecting but we decided to let them tell stories. There is not a single story for any image, but each sets the stage for the viewer to tell their own story. These images form a series we created using articles/objects collected by us and others, titled Implications I, in which two similar images of collected articles are photographed and interwoven, resulting in images that place emphasis on certain areas of or objects in the image or play with the viewer's expectations.
The first three images contain articles we collected - books, vessels, containers, keys, candlesticks, fabrics and other objects. "Dead Roses" (above; the rest of the images in the slideshow below) is set in the long-ago past, with its old brass candelabra and ancient books, one showing a period costume. The flowers are so old, they're dead. "Lilies" is reminiscent of a mother's or grandmother's home setting. It has a ceramic pitcher and candlestick, a baby picture, hand-embroidered table cover, a decorated lipstick case and a full and feminine arrangement of flowers. "Mixed Flowers" is more of a mixed bag. Depending on the viewer's experience, the setting could be more along the lines of shabby chic with its hand-embroidered piece contrasted with the heavier hand-woven piece, the ceramic pitcher next to the bone china sugar bowl, and variations in the flowers, as well.
The other three images show others' collected objects - primarily native art objects and wearables. "Cactus" is a friend's collection of art/craft objects from North and Central America made of natural materials, such as wool, trees, grasses and clay. Because of the smaller size of these articles, they are generally intended for decorative purposes, but could be
of some use. The collector was drawn to the skill and design of the crafts people and was less concerned with their functionality or collecting a specific type of article, nor is he actively trying to add to the collection. "Faux Flowers" contains some of the many items collected by Frank's mother and kept with her in her room at the nursing home until her passing at age 102. We decided to use these to create a biographical memorial of sorts. She loved wearables, every kind of clothing and accessory, especially hats. Though not all used here, most of the snapshots we found pictured her, including one from the '70s, wearing the tiara and another from the '90s, wearing the sombrero. Even the flowers and vase were found in a drawer in her room. A few of the hats and all of the snapshots became part of our collections after her passing. The rest of the articles were passed on to organizations so others might give them a home or decide to destroy them. "Tulips" is a memorial to Terri's aunt. She enjoyed costume jewelry, dress gloves and other accessories, collecting primarily in the late '40s and early '50s, after she graduated from nursing school and before she married. This collection included a set of cuff links and pin to wear with her nursing uniform and a durable, but stylish watch with a second hand that doubled as a tool of her trade. Again, a few of the articles became part of our collections after her passing; the rest passed on.
Each of us has our reason for collecting something. We might even have different reasons for collecting different things and might have different constraints on our collecting, such as space or money. These reasons are all personal, whether they are emotional, economic or aesthetic and are what make each collection a unique window into the collector's soul.
Terri St.Arnauld & Frank Yezer are Artists/Photographers who collaborate and live in Austin, TX. They work primarily with large-format film, printing in platinum or gelatin silver.
Here we highlight featured stories from the archive, contributions by fellow writers and artists, as well as reflections and comments on the value and impact of discarded objects in our world.