Treasures of the Heart
Photographs of Hoarding by a Child of a Hoarder
I am making anonymous photographs of the prized possessions of people who have hoarding tendencies. My main goal is to reveal the variety of human experience, the depth of feeling, and the startling beauty that hide behind that ugly word, “hoarder”. I also want to make images that do justice to my childhood experience with hoarding.
My mom suffered from hoarding disorder. I played with my action figures on mountains of old magazines and discarded clothes; I climbed over a heap of garbage bags whenever I wanted to play the piano. This environment shaped the way I viewed the world: the things I loved were buried in junk, but I loved them nonetheless.
In these photographs, I have tried to look at people's possessions through the lens of my childhood experience. Every picture contains something that that the participant and I both find striking, precious, or beautiful. Every picture also contains evidence of a daily struggle with an ever-rising tide of stuff. The “treasures of the heart”, as one person called her prized possessions, are inextricable from the trash.
I use a large-format film camera. I process all of my photographs by hand in my own darkroom. A single print can take many hours to produce, and each is a unique labor of love. I use this old-school method because I want to transform objects that are precious to their owners into precious objects for everyone.
If you are interested in participating in my project, or if you know somebody who might be interested, please feel free to write to me through the contact form on my website. I would love to learn about your situation and speak with you about whether this project would be a good fit for you or your loved one.
"Only a hoarder can help a hoarder." - C.
C was the first person who gave me permission to make photographs in (and just outside) her home. The titles of the images come from our conversations.
C is in her 70s. She walks more in an average day than I do. She is a grandmother who has outlasted two marriages. Now, she lives alone.
She is a complicated person: by turns enthusiastic, sentimental, and embittered. She'll tell you her life story at the drop of a hat. Her tears flow freely, as do her denunciations of “the banksters” and “that bitch [who] stole my cat”. She once told me, with alarming chutzpah, "I never knew what a boundary was until I was 50 years old." If I dropped my guard around her, she would soon be making calls from my cell phone while I chauffeured her to and from her daily errands.
C's lack of boundaries was also a blessing: she showed incredible generosity in opening her home, and her life, to a stranger with a camera. I have tried to justify her faith in me by telling her story using her own words and things, with as much fidelity and as little prejudice as possible.
"Only a hoarder can help a hoarder." C said this to me many times. It was the main reason she gave for participating in my project. Though she couldn't control her own environment, she believed that she could help others by sharing her experience with them. I want to believe that she can.