For my “My Stuff, My Life” series I collected items from a range of people from age 20 to 93 to photograph as representative personal portraits. I asked them for items that they consider to be representative of themselves or that can tell a story about their life in some way. By giving the participants the choice to decide what objects they want to include, I also give them the choice to represent themselves in any way, should they wish to stray from the truth. Included in the title of each image is the first name of each participant and their age. — Kristina Smith
Interview with the photographer
RF: Tell us a bit about yourself.
KS: I’m finishing my third year of photography at Ryerson and outside of the photo world I find myself collecting all the latest music from my favourite artists. I like photographing things in a way that makes people think or find irony in the everyday landscape. Before coming to Ryerson, I lived in a small city, which influences some of my landscape work. Outside of my photography, I also enjoy other varieties of arts and crafts, which you might find me combining with my photography or doing on the side.
RF: Do you consider these images “portraits?” Why?
KS: Yep, I would consider them portraits, but more like faceless portraits or representative portraits. The photos represent the people they depict without showing the person, so I would definitely call them a different kind of portraits than the usual.
RF: Why objects? What do they symbolize and how were they selected?
KS: I’ve always been interested in peoples’ things and why they have attachments to them, or what kinds of things different kinds of people might have. I think they symbolize all different aspects of people’s lives; the same object could symbolize different things for different people. I don’t really know exactly what every object I photographed symbolizes because I haven’t even met some of the people whose things I was lent to photograph. The objects were selected by the participants based off the question I asked them: “if you could represent yourself through objects that tell a story about your self or in some way aid in defining you, what objects would you choose?”
RF: What was the most interesting thing about photographing people’s things?
KS: I think the most interesting thing about doing this project was seeing the kinds of things people would give me. I could sometimes predict what kind of things I would get from people if I already knew them, but there were always surprises. When I didn’t know someone and I got their objects and looked at them for the first time it was kind of like opening a present on Christmas! There were all these awesome things that meant something to someone and I got to take care of them for a little while.
RF: What was the most challenging?
RF: The most challenging thing was definitely making sure I didn’t damage anything, I’m usually a very careful person when it comes to stuff, but I tried to be extra careful with the things people gave because I knew a lot of them had sentimental value.
RF: What do you want to communicate ultimately with this project?
KS: I think the main thing I want to communicate is how you can make judgments on people based on their material items but you’ll never really know what the person is like or what their things mean until you get to know them, so their items, although you can get an idea of who they are by looking at them, don’t really mean anything other than your interpretation of them.
Interview questions by Lucy Lu.