You probably own many significant objects, from a wedding ring to old clothes, trophies of achievement to mementos that recall special events or times of your life, like toys or records. Choose one of these to photograph. This mustn’t be a general thing like ‘flowers’ but something entirely specific to you. Respect the fact that this object matters to you. Photograph it carefully, thinking about how this object ought to be viewed through the camera. Now develop this exercise into a series of three photographs of similar objects. For example, if you chose to photograph your wedding ring, ask friends if you can photograph their wedding rings. If you photographed your home, photograph other people’s homes. Use exactly the same viewpoint, framing, lighting (as far as possible), background, etc., for each. This will help the three final photos fit together as a conclusive series.
This was a rather difficult exercise for me. I don’t really know why. I had a look at other peoples work in relation to this and tried to avoid doing the same things, same objects. So generally I avoided things like childhood items, or family heirlooms. My best friend had just died so I thought I would do something linked to him – but what? Presents he had given me didn’t seem suitable – he used to buy rubbish presents anyway, and when I really considered things of his that were sentimental to me, they were stories of things we did together, people we had met, music we had listened to etc – none of it was really an object – it wasn’t an ‘actual’ CD, but the dodgy song that was on it. Then one of his relatives rang me and asked would I help clear out my friends house – they were going to have to sell it and it was full of his belongings.
I arrived with the idea that something here might work. This had been his mums house before him, and I had spent a lot of my teenage life in that house as she fed me, and his dad drove me around. Many bits of the house had changed, and I considered photographing the house as a whole, but it was similar to what I had done for the square mile project, so decided against this. His aunts had packed a lot of his things up, plus I didn’t want to upset them by asking to go through his belongings. So I decided I would pick a part of the house. Most of the house had changed over the years, certainly from my fondest memories there. The kitchen was new, sofas, tables were not quite the same as I would have liked. Then I went to the loo. Now, I know its odd, so I don’t need reminding of that, but it was the one room in the house were little had changed. The bathroom suit hadn’t been changed, and I guess its the area of the house that generally gets changed the least. So I just decided to take a picture of the toilet. It fitted somewhat with the brief – not great, I know, but like I said I was struggling. I also thought that it worked a little with this Becher plan that the notes mention. Plus if its good enough for Duchamp, then I guess it will do for me. I tried taking the picture from a few different angles, but I couldn’t capture everything, so focused more on the Becher-like front on image of a toilet bowel. So really it was symbolic of the house as a whole. So the question I guess is two-fold, does the image have the same sentimental feelings as I did when I went in to the toilet. And the answer to me is really no. But it does have some feeling for me.
So I decided then to take some pictures of other toilets – some of which I have further connections with – the loo at my parents house etc – and then others to which I have no connection, other than a couple of desperate but useful minutes. Because, for all the sentiment attached, it is just a toilet. I have avoided also saying which toilet is which – the sentimental feelings are mine, to everyone else its just a toilet, and the anonymity of it is part of the gig I think.