• Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Twitter Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon

© 2017 John Kiely        john@purlieu.photography             Phone +447736849388


Unlocking the history: once treasured possessions, now discarded junk


·       of great value; not to be wasted or treated carelessly: precious works of art, my time’s precious
·       greatly loved or treasured by someone:look after my daughter—she’s very precious to me


Today’s society demands that we constantly respond to the latest trends, even by season.  Currently furniture design is constantly refined, redesigned or recoloured to encourage us to change our living environment, which then needs repopulating with decorative items.  This lifestyle is dependent on our disposable income and credit status.  In the past, even the recent past, possessions were less transitory, they were items to be saved for and treasured.  Remember the vase that stood in pride of place on your Grandmother’s window ledge for years, if not decades?


These valued possessions can now be found piled high in plastic boxes in car boot sales or flea markets.  Now devoid of their previous status they are left to discolour and decay.  It may be a tankard, which could have been presented by a sporting club in honour of achievement, and then hung behind the bar for the ‘usual’ pint.  Or a cheap tin vase, in a grand style, to decorate the parlour in a style beyond the socio economic world of the occupant.  All of these items were once someone’s ‘precious’ possessions.


In this project I photograph these once prized items and invite the viewer to contemplate their history, the memories attached to them – their narrative.  In keeping with the subject the set is consistent throughout the series.  It is comprised of wood from a discarded palette and a background rescued from a skip.  It was clear from the start that I could not shoot this project digitally. Digital photography is synonymous with the rapidly changing disposable lifestyle that conflicts with the subject matter.  After trying several historical processes that use film, I had still not found a suitable medium.  While researching, I discovered John Brewer, a Wet Plate photographer whose work appealed to the aesthetics of my approach, and the process seemed perfect for my intentions.  I attended a workshop run by John and learned this process, which dates back to 1850, and produces unique images on glass.  After nine months of development I finally felt confident enough to start shooting.

The camera used was also important to the project.  Initially I used modern large format cameras with adapted film holders, but this didn’t sit comfortably with the subject matter because of the transition from old to contemporary.  Eventually I produced the work on a Victorian whole plate camera, 6 ½ x 8 ½ inches.  This was assembled from the contents of a box of broken parts acquired on eBay.  The camera was also a once prized and treasured possession now abandoned, in pieces, in a box of similar antiquarian apparatuses and sold on an auction site, the digital version of the car boot sale.