Photographing Everyday Objects That Make Us Who We Are
They’re oft forgotten under the bed, nestled between some books on a shelf, or tucked away in a closet. A wooden box, a ring, a photograph — we all own those seemingly unremarkable objects that are, in fact, bursting with personal meaning. Revealing their story gives a glimpse into our past, shining a faint light into the depths of our soul.
That’s what Kristen Joy Watts and Ramsay de Give are doing with The Weight of Objects — a photography blog that features portraits of people side by side with ordinary, but prized, possessions. A founding member of the New York Times’ photo blog, Lens, Watts is the editor, and Ramsay’s the photographer — using a medium format “tank of a camera,” as he describes it, that was discontinued in 2004. (He is also colorblind.) We talked to the duo about light, color, and finding subjects in unexpected places.
How did The Weight of Objects come together?
Kristen Joy Watts: I wanted to match quiet portraits with a storytelling method that would reveal just a hint of each person portrayed. I thought that asking each subject to share the story of a treasured object would achieve that. And I knew that Ramsay would capture each object with the requisite awe and wonder.
What’s the significance of the blog’s name?
KJW: When I was trying to think of one, I thought “weight” nicely expressed the significance of a thing. I also saw one definition when I was googling that described it as “the force with which a body is attracted to Earth or another celestial body,” and I thought that was a great way to think of it: Diptychs that explore the attraction or the magnetism between someone and something.
What kind of camera do you use to shoot the portraits, and why?
Ramsay de Give: I use a Bronica SQ-A medium format camera — something like a cheaper Hasselblad. The images aren’t always perfect. Often they will have a technical flaw — whether grain, focus, or another aspect that shows up. But this is the reason I love it. I’ve embraced the curiosity of these occurrences. It works well with this project.
KJW: And, I’m amazed by the color combinations he manages to make, since he’s colorblind. It’s baffling. It’s magic.
I’d imagine, then, that light plays at important role in your shooting process.
RDG: I’ve been amazed at the power of light to literally pull me toward it. I gravitate uncontrollably. At times I’ll be walking down the street with a subject, observing the light, and stop dead in my tracks to have a peek, leaving them walking on a number of steps before they take note. One of those moments where it all just clicks and a real calm washes over.
How do you choose who to photograph?
KJW: We’re striving for an eclectic mix, and we find everyone we shoot. Some people we know, some are friends of friends. A few people I’ve found on the train. In January, I introduced myself to a fellow diner at The Dutch and asked her to be part of the project. She was tall and striking, wearing this bright red coat. She had this special light about her. The portrait we chose from Ramsay’s shots from that day was exactly as I’d pictured it, with her gorgeous skin and bold coat almost floating on top of the dark, wintery scene in Madison Square Park.
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