Photography Spotlight: Things
The cultural anthropology of things, or what Hitler’s head has to do with Barbie.
By Maria Popova
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.
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.
Published July 9, 2009