Photographer and Professor Paho Mann has been getting some recent notice for his photos of various junk drawers and medicine cabinets, and with good reason. He presents them extremely well, on a minimalist black background, shot exactly from above.
Do our junk drawers and medicine cabinets say anything about us as people? More importantly, if they do, is it something interesting, something worth recording? I’d say many of these examples do–there’s something melancholy about looking at what we choose to throw in such a drawer, and why this specific container–this squared zone full of miscellany–is nearly ubiquitous among households. I use a laptop, and my current desk features a keyboard drawer. It became a ‘junk drawer’ about 3 days after I moved in.
My favorite objects are the ones that get thrown in there only temporarily, the kind of things that sat on a counter for too many days until being shuffled away with the vague mental promise, made to no one in particular, of future retrieval. Paper plates, a single snapshot, the expired batteries.
Mann’s website describes him as investigating the “physical manifestation of individuality”, and several of his other projects realize this attempt with an energy that such work demands, especially his ambitious ‘Sort‘.
I find myself drawn to artists and writers who try and catalogue the detritus of consumable products, usually because it’s such a wide and all-encompassing topic that do it with any style or depth takes a large amount of talent and patience.
Anyone can grab various ‘found objects’ that have been discarded, de-contextualized, and forgotten. It’s creating a compelling narrative out of them that’s hard. There are plenty of abandoned things in the world, and plenty of photographers with good cameras ready to shoot them, but finding thematic unity in randomness often comes late, if at all.
I think the finest contemporary ‘collector’, as it were, is undoubtedly Luc Sante, who besides his books and exhibitions (plus these great pieces)occasionally publishes short narratives or thoughts on his blog, Pinakothek. It’s highly recommended, as is Paho Mann’s site.