Photography > Given: The Things We Give and Give Away

In my closet there is a Rubbermaid container. It is full of pieces of my childhood, from a tiny blanket I was swaddled in to my first pacifier. My mother filled it as I grew up. On my family’s Christmas tree my sister’s and my ornaments commemorating our first Christmas make an appearance every year. Scattered throughout my bedroom are mementos. These include the possessions of deceased grandparents and pets, presents from past and present friendships, and gifts my grandmother has given me. Whether tucked away in drawers or sitting atop my bookshelf, they can be found in every corner of my room. It would appear cluttered to some. Everything has a memory; everything is reminiscent. Because of that I keep almost everything. I struggle to dispose of dioramas I made in the sixth grade, remembering the time and care I took in making those and that time in my life. In my nostalgia I find it hard to give anything away, but even when I decide to part ways with something, I often feel as though I am giving a piece of myself away. It is painful. I can remember as I grew up how death, illness, and the loss of friendships and relationships crept into my life. Therefore, I clung to these personal pieces in an attempt to hold onto and remember a particular time.

As I began brainstorming for this project, I was initially interested in the concept of the lost and found. I considered observing misplaced items that are unclaimed and seemingly go not missed. From that starting point, I questioned what could be said about the materials we choose to give away or donate. I was also interested in the question that if people accidentally lose the personal goods that get placed in the lost and found, could very personal articles also be found among the mix of intentionally relinquished property at Goodwill Stores as well? As I walked into Goodwill for the first time I had very low expectations. I did not foresee finding any deeply personal products among the shelves. I can recall stumbling upon someone’s bronze baby shoe amidst the clutter. Holding that person’s shoe so many questions flooded my mind. I wanted to know who this person was, who donated this, and why? I realized I was holding something that was once part of someone’s story. Given focuses on the mundane. It explores our relationship to these everyday objects. It also questions why we choose to give personal belongings away and what dictates our decisions of when to let something personal or sentimental go. This series also explores the subjectivity of what is considered valuable or worth saving.

Given presents the perspective of how each of us relates to experiences in our lives differently. The photographs delve into what we choose to leave behind, both literally and figuratively. In taking the object out of its original context, it is given the ability to redefine itself, as its meaning or significance is left up to interpretation. The minor manipulation of each of the images post production and plain, white background is neither flamboyant nor showy. Each of the photographs is simply the object. This allows them to speak for themselves, as though personified. I wanted to raise the questions as to if memory and meaning are really found in the thing itself, and if taken out of its original context how greatly that impacts its value.