Brain Pickings

Photography Spotlight: Things


The cultural anthropology of things, or what Hitler’s head has to do with Barbie.

It’s fascinating how we all use things — objects, products, trinkets, stuff — to define ourselves and make sense of the world. This is the backbone of consumer culture, but also a precious piece of cultural anthropology from a historical perspective.

Polish photographer Andrzej Kramarz explores both in Things.

The series, inspired by the horror vacui style of folk art, captures “portraits” of objects from the past, laid out on the ground into densely packed displays.

A typical sight in Eastern European antique street markets, the objects — old, worn-out souvenirs of the past — are of little monetary worth, but offer an incredible glimpse of eras gone by.

In a word: that, which is left of a previous life; that, which used to live, now leads a life after life, sometimes an imagined existence.

From war paraphernalia to antique jewelry to vintage hardware tools, the images read like powerful visual chapters from a textbook on sociocultural and political history.

Explore Things in its entirety over at Lens Culture, and think about what a portrait of your own trinkets-laden past would look like.

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