Collecting & Knolling

Winter is a good time to bring your photography indoors and focus on a subject that is close to you, but has perhaps gone unnoticed as a potential photo project – your collections!

My Collection.
Ever since first visiting museum archives and storage rooms as a kid I have been fascinated by objects organized into collections. This image was one of my first attempts at photographing my own collection of objects. I had gathered these items over the years to use as props for various stock, still life and concept shots.

Box Camera Collection
I have recently started collecting cameras (mostly from eBay). It seems to be an obvious subject for a photographer to collect and I genuinely like the aesthetic look that some of these old cameras have. Presentation is an important part of collecting for me. I don’t want these objects of desire to sit in boxes or drawers. I want them out on display, or in a form of presentation where I can see and enjoy them. For this poster I placed each box camera in a small light tent (Photoflex Litelgloo), and shot it outside in bright natural light with a fish-eye lens. Then I combined them all with borders into this grid presentation in Photoshop.

Everybody has some. For many collectors they are obvious; a camera collection, stamps, rocks, figurines or comic books. However, sometimes the collection is more obscure and the owner may not even be aware that it is a collection. Autumn leaves collected on a hike, postcards filed away in a shoebox, a silverware collection, Christmas ornaments, baseball caps, a shoe collection, or bread bag twist ties you keep throwing in the junk drawer but never use. Check that junk drawer and I would bet there are the beginnings of half a dozen undiscovered collections in there.

The point is that a collection can be anything, it doesn’t have to be expensive, it might not even be recognized by you yet, but it does say something about you. For ideas and inspiration on just how varied, and sometimes unexpected, these collections can be check out this website where Lisa Congdon photographed, painted or illustrated a collection a day for 365 days! As you look through these images, note how many of the objects are organized into a rectangular grid with objects laid out either parallel or at right angles to each other and to the edge of the frame. This is called “knolling” and by arranging the objects in this style their relationship as a group or collection comes more into focus.

For an even greater selection of collection ideas, knolling and inspiration, look up the website “Things Organized Neatly”.  I cannot explain what my fascination with this type of imagery is. I am not a highly organized person, in fact I don’t function well in environments that are structured or too orderly, but I like the look. If these websites and images push a button for you, know that you are not alone. Scan your house, garage, junk drawers, and closets or anywhere you squirrel stuff away. There will be objects hidden there that will form collections. They will be of a similar kind, form, function, colour or meaning. The link between them may not be obvious until you actually look with the idea of collection in mind. You may find the beginnings of a collection but it feels or looks incomplete. Garage sales, antique shops and eBay are great resources to search for that last object needed to fulfill the set. Gather them, do some knolling, photograph the result, repeat if necessary. It should feel as if a deep unconscious itch has been scratched.

I think type can be beautiful! I have several hundred different fonts on my computer and I also collect actual wood and metal type. I have spent days arranging and photographing this constantly growing collection of letterpress type for prints, stock and my own enjoyment. Actual letterpress type is backwards so it will print right reading. This image has been flipped horizontally.

I took my own advice in this article and looked around the house to try and find a collection I didn’t know existed. This is what I found. At first the group seemed incomplete until a trip to the local antique mall here in Edmonton turned up the large aviation tube in the upper left. Laying them all out according to the simple guidelines of “knolling” (you really got to check this out), they formed a nice visual collection.

Article by Daryl Benson

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments are closed.