Personal PossessionsAS PHOTOGRAPHY EXAMINATIONFebruary 2012
Personal PossessionsPersonal possessions have provided inspiration for manyphotographers. Sometimes the photographs of belongingscan reveal the personality and interests of the owner.Explore appropriate examples and produce your own work.
Yann Gross from the Kitintale Project,2008Kitintale, located in the Kampala areaof Uganda is the ﬁrst East Africanskatepark constructed by localyoungsters and home to a subculturethat Gross has been documenting forsome years. Gross has been leadingefforts to build a new half-pipe andcommunity centre.What does this image suggest aboutthe relationship between the boy andhis skateboard?How does the composition of thepicture help to tell a story?
“This whole notion of the disappeared, Ithink, is something that runs through mywork. Im very interested in absence andpresence in the way that particularlyblack women’s experience and blackwomen’s contribution to culture is sooften erased and marginalised.”Who is/was Polyhymnia?Why has the photographer chosen topresent the subject in this way?Maud SalterPolyhymnia (Portrait of Ysaye Barmell),1989
August Sander from the seriesPeople of the Twentieth CenturyWhat do the personal possessions ofthis young man tell us about hisprofession, character and values?What are the strange marks on hisface?“Sander’s portraits, whether half- orfull-length, are always set in a simpleenvironment. He gave a controlledand intentional hint at the origin andprofession of the sitter through thebackground or through clothes,hairstyle and gesture.”
Roger Mayne Teddy Boy Group, Princedale Road, 1956 How do these boys deﬁne themselves as a subcultural group? What is the atmosphere of this image? What details stand out as being signiﬁcant?“I was going out on a foray in North Kensington, and as always I had my cameraaround my neck, and I saw this group of teddy boys and even to me as a youngperson they were a bit sinister, so I walked down the street on the other side. I gotpast them, thank God I got past them, and then I heard this voice, take our photoMister!. So, of course, immediately I turned around and photographed the group,because I mean I wasnt going to miss a chance like that and I realised that theywerent sinister. They were actually being quite friendly. So I went in quite closeamongst the group and got quite a lot more photographs quite close to them.”
Scott DouglasLouise Bourgeois No. 2, 2008What does this image say about thesitter?How does the composition affect ourview of her?What do her possessions tell usabout her?
William Eggleston T. C. Boring, Greenwood, Mississippi early 1970s
Catherine BaletInes Connected with Amina from the seriesConnected, 2008How does the camera angle affect our viewof these two young women?How has the photographer exploited avariety of light sources to create a speciﬁcmood?What messages about technologicalpossessions are being presented here doyou think?
“In the 20th century, and especially its last decades, ourrelationship to things fundamentally changed. In his essay ‘On thePoetics of Things in Modernism’, Michael Jakob discusses hownatural products, prized from the Renaissance to theEnlightenment, have been supplanted by manufactured, mass-produced goods. Mass production democratizes objects, makingthem widely affordable - the trade-off being that they are no longerspecial, no longer unique. They have to rely for their appeal on theirglint of newness.”The Ecstasy of Things, Edited by Thomas Seelig & Urs Stahel
Thomas StruthLaurence and Charles,New York 2001How has Struth chosen topresent his sitters in thisimage?How do theirsurroundings andpossessions help usunderstand who theyare?In the mid-1980s, after a period of collaboration with the psychoanalyst Ingo Hartmannstudying family snapshots, Struth embarked on a series of portraits of individuals andfamily groups, using the same type of large-format view camera that he had used forhis architectural work. These works were again highly constructed, urbane portraits,showing character but not revealing personality.
Many photographers have beenfascinated by the ordinary objects thatsurround us. In this series of famousimages, Shore documents the surfaceof everyday life in 1970s America in allits banal detail.What makes these images successful?Stephen Shore, from American Surfaces 1972
Walker Evans Kitchen Corner, Tenant Farmhouse, Sherrie Levine After Walker Evans No. 7 1981Hale County, Alabama 1936
The series, entitled After Walker Evans, becamea landmark of postmodernism, both praised andattacked as a feminist hijacking of patriarchalauthority, a critique of the commodiﬁcation of art,and an elegy on the death of modernism. Farfrom a high-concept cheap shot, Levines worksfrom this series tell the story of our perpetuallydashed hopes to create meaning, the inability torecapture the past, and our own lost illusions.
José Antonio Hernández-Diez Hegel, Kant, Kafka 2001
Alec Soth Charles, Vasa, Minnesota 2002What strikes you as interesting and/orunusual about this image?Imagine the portrait without the toyplanes. What would be lost?
André Kertész Mondrian’s Spectacles and Pipe 1926What kind of man was Mondrian, the owner of these objects?How eloquent are objects in representing our identities?
James Van Der ZeeAn African American couple strike a pose wearing matchingracoon fur coats. West 127th Street, Harlem NYC, 1932.
Takashi Hommafrom Tokyo And My Daughter2005-6Think of a series of adjectives orphrases to describe the qualitiesof this image:informalinnocentintimate ... etc.How good are objects (andphotographs) at evokingrelationships?
“Things are an integral part of the psychological makeup of everyindividual as possessions or projected desires. They are guarantorsof social status and life-enhancement, proof of affection,crystallised points of identity, a pledge of transcendence.Something of the childish pleasure in things, in which the thingbecomes the world and the self, survives in the adult.”The Ecstasy of Things, Edited by Thomas Seelig & Urs Stahel
Some questions to ask yourself:Which of your personal possessions hold the most meaning?Where do we tend to keep our special objects?Which one object would best represent you or someone you know?Can a single object reveal anything meaningful about its owner?In what sense can possessions be a kind of trap?What would it be like to get rid of all the things we own?How could you photograph the entire contents of your bedroom?What is it like to give an object as a gift?