I made a body of work using the wet plate collodion process to record the items of my late wife’s Lisa Garner’s “estate”. The project was called “Inventory” and was inspired by a very practical matter: I needed to put her things in storage or donate it to charity. I also needed to spend time with her memory and spirit in a creative way. Making the work in wet plate and then printing the images in platinum required time and attention. “Inventory” centered me.
I’m a commercial photographer. That means I make my living creating images for outside interests (advertising, magazines, corporations, private commissions). It makes people uncomfortable to hear the story behind the work. That’s bad for business. The challenge to strike an emotional balance between the two worlds in which this work exists is very real. What helps is the gentle reminder that my artwork, like children, really don’t belong to me. I created the work but have no right to protect it from the world in which it belongs.
“Inventory” is about appreciating beauty and craft. Lisa loved well made things and my photographs honor that. Of course there are more emotions tied up in it for me, but finding beauty in the objects of our daily lives is central to this project. The handbags by Coach and Kate Spade; fresh cut flowers from the grocery store; handmade books; woodblocks from an old printing press; the elegant design of a Rolleiflex or ; the collection of Ray Bans and vintage eyeglasses (all of which she wore) reminds me that beauty is within reach.
“Inventory”, free from it’s emotional bonds gets to the heart of what drives me as an artist. I love making beautiful images and I respond to beautiful things in the world. Viewers should create their own narrative and relationship around these images. Doing so celebrates the most important things this work is about: love and beauty. Those two things never die and that might be the lasting message of “Inventory”