100 Found Items

A study conducted by an insurance company shows that on average we lose up to 9 objects every day. This adds up to around 200,000 items each year! Some of the most common lost items include our phones, car keys and bank cards. I decided that I was going to look at the more personal objects that we lose such as a child’s special teddy or an engagement ring. 

While several photographers influenced this project some stood out more than others. Taryn Simon, Sian Bonnell, and Mark Dion were the artists I took the most inspiration from. Taryn Simon’s project, Contraband, started it all. Contraband is a series of documentary-style photographs cataloguing objects that have been taken from passengers at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City by the United States Customs and Border Protection agency. The collection of items ranges from things that seem insignificant such as vegetables and baseball caps to illegal products that could cause people a lot of harm such as gamma-hydroxybutyrate, a date rape drug. I was drawn to her work because of the vast array of objects that she had found. I also became interested in the way she documented the items and used them to make the audience think about the bigger picture.

The images made by Simon are completely clinical, it is left up to the audience to determine the context in which they lie. The only context that we are given is the title of the project, Contraband, which implies that these objects are illegal and therefore could be harmful to the citizens of America. The way that Simon has chosen to photograph these objects shows a certain degree of detachment from the items, it is clear that the objects do not belong to her and she is simply photographing them to catalogue and archive them. 

During the development of this project, I experimented with images both in and outside of the studio. I started to photograph the items I found in a studio setting. I liked this at first because it was an easy starting point and allowed the objects to speak for themselves without a noisy background to take away from their importance.

However, as the project developed. I started to photograph the objects in the location I found them. I found that I preferred this method of cataloguing the objects I found because it gave them some context and allowed the audience to see what I was seeing when I was looking for the lost items.

From this point forwards, it was a matter of finding more lost items! I ventured out almost every day in search of more objects. I found a few here and there but it wasn’t enough. I started to take my camera and “found item collecting bag” everywhere I went, to work, to see friends, even to do my weekly shopping!

Eventually, I found 100 items and I had taken photographs of every single one. I arranged them into a photobook. I then bound the photobook with pieces of paper that I had found while searching for objects. My work was then displayed at the Solent University end-of-year show entitled ‘Bokeh’.

Below is a selection of the images I took for this project as well as photos of the gallery space I am displaying my work.

Chelsea x