I’ve been photographing what I call “ordinary objects” for a couple years now, featuring things like mailboxes, payphones, water fountains, trash bins and the like. I just added a Mexican mailbox to my collection over the Veterans’ Day holiday. I have objects from France, Italy, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico now.
As you may well know if you’ve followed my blog for some length of time, I like taking portraits of ordinary objects- things we see in daily life and ignore and/or take for granted, like pay phones, water fountains, traffic cones, and trash cans. I’ve photographed them in Paris, Toronto, New York, Washington DC and now Rome and Florence. They all have a common denominator of their base functionality. I think though that the Italian ones seem to have just a bit more flair and style to them – take a look and see what you think.
This fire hose connector is probably the newest thing I’ve photographed in this series – the copper connecting pipe has only just begun to oxidize!
In contrast, this trash can in Florence with cigarette butt receptacle is quite well-used, but still has style.
… as does this Roman bin across from the Capitoline hill.
The poor mailbox in Trastevere has been graffiti’d and stickered and it still soldiers on.
Don’t you wish all payphones were this glamorous (and as easy to find)? Here in DC when I went to find a payphone to photograph, it took me several days of looking before I ran into one. I saw this one on my first day in Florence.
I’ll include this because it has a very utilitarian purpose – it’s a street lamp. Granted, a 15th century street lamp attached to a palace, but a street lamp nonetheless.
A public drinking fountain. These were ubiquitous across Rome, in very much the same form, some in better and some in worse condition. But they worked, and the water was sweet and clean, always flowing, and free.
A lowly door handle – this one in particular is attached to a palace, but there were plenty to be found of similar quality on middle-class residences in both Rome and Florence.
And last but not least, a traffic cone. Well, in this case, a red granite bollard some four feet high and three-ish in diameter, in the entrance courtyard to the Palazzo Barberini.
Another in my series of portraits of ordinary objects. Most of my ordinary objects portraits depict well-used, sort of unloved objects, but this is a brand-new (or at least nearly new) fire hose connector inside the Fortezza Basso complex in Florence.
Another of my portraits of ordinary objects – this time a trash can in Rome, outside the Theater of Marcellus, at the foot of the Palatine Hill. The trash can sits at attention, doing its duty exposed to the elements. Neither rain nor snow nor ill-placed cigarette butts deter it from its appointed task.
I don’t usually photograph in the rain, but I was so excited to be in Rome, running around and photographing without constraints, I didn’t care if people were staring at me as if I were some kind of freak, photographing a trash can in the rain with a 60 year old camera. This particular composition appealed to me because while the trash can is the center of attention and the star of the show, the background of the cafe umbrellas and the woman in the red coat with matching umbrella convey an extra level of that sense of how people turn their backs on public conveniences like trash cans and ignore them until they need them. Everything else is more important and more deserving of protection/attention.
I found this fountain with its traditional wolf’s head and SPQR inscription, both symbols of ancient Rome, in the entrance courtyard to the Centrale Montemartini museum. I suspect they’re relics of the Fascist era as the power plant was built during Mussolini’s pre-war leadership, and symbols of Imperial Rome were in very high demand.
Today, it adds a touch of tranquility to an industrial setting.
Another in my Portraits of Ordinary Objects series.
I’ve been working on this series for a while now, photographing common things we see every day and take for granted. I keep on doing this around the world, photographing pay phones, mail boxes, trash cans, fire hydrants, all the little things that populate the overlooked corners of our daily lives. The interesting thing about them is that despite cultural differences (mailboxes in France are yellow, in the US they’re red and blue) they’re pretty much instantly recognizable across all cultures. You don’t have to be a Spaniard to recognize a Spanish mail box, pay phone, or trash receptacle.
This is part of a series I’ve been working on – photographing ordinary objects we pass by on the street every day but take for granted. They are things we see but don’t see, and they may well vanish, like pay phones, mailboxes, and newspaper vending machines, before we realize they’re gone. Pay phones are all but replaced by the cellphone. Newspapers as a physical object may cease to exist thanks to the internet, and along with them the newspaper box. Email has just about killed the personal letter – the only thing keeping the postal services alive these days are mass marketers with their junk mail, Ebay and Amazon with package deliveries. Not everything in the series is vanishing in a literal sense like pay phones, but some of them do vanish from our perception like the fire hydrant, the lamp post, and the traffic cone. We know they’re there because we don’t trip over them when walking on the streets, but they exist at the periphery. They each have their own beauty and form, however, and within their function there are a remarkable variety of forms – the hydrant in Chalon-sur-Saone, while as recognizable as a fire hydrant as the hydrant from Washington DC, has a very different form, as does the Siamese spigot.