The collector: Andrew Pearsall, Senior Lecturer in Photography at Glamorgan university, South Wales.
The collection: Cabinet of Curiosities - mainly objects of natural history, but also bottles, machinery and mechanical devices.
The story behind the collection...
I’m a compulsive hoarder, I’m currently adding to my vintage camera collection as I’m experimenting with early photographic processes such as wet plate collodion, cyanotype, salt prints and gum bi-chromate.
My largest collection though is of objects similar to what perhaps Victorians collected and called their cabinet of curiosities. I’ve been collecting since I did my foundation in fine art before going to university in the early nineties. At that time I started to create assemblages, boxes of objects and crude automata that had some sort of theme.
During my research I discovered artists such as Joseph Cornell, Peter Blake and the Czech animator Jan Svankmajer who just inspired me in terms of their visual aesthetic. Also museums like the Pitt Rivers in Oxford opened up a new approach to seeing and organizing things.
My photography tutor Ray Spence also inspired me. His early work contained images of sea horses, plants and other ephemera, and you can see the influence in my early work. Bill Jackson who I see has recently started photographing his collection of objects also taught me when I was at college in the midlands.
I collect anything that inspires my image making - from objects of natural history such as an ostrich egg or fossil to old tools, mechanical parts and objects I find scouring the beach.
Photography for me is definitely a form of collecting - taking little slivers of time and fixing them into silicon or silver, always waiting for that "Decisive Moment" as Henri Cartier Bresson called it.
I collect interesting light or unusual shapes and textures; my style is very formal, being influenced by the “Topographics” photographic movement. I find the style reminiscent of painters like Rothko or Hopper, blocks of colour and texture.
The number of objects in my collection is probably in the hundreds but they are all packed away and I’m trying to find a way of displaying them. I find it hard to finally fix these objects into a set assemblage. I bought two type setting drawers 15 years ago to hang on the wall. but i have yet set them in. I can’t commit them to a finished permanent piece, so I’m looking to photograph them as cyanotypes or tintypes which gives each image a uniqueness.
The mechanical interest came from my father. I remember as a child going into his sheds and looking at all the objects he kept such as bits of wood, tools and all sorts of electrical and mechanical parts, they were fascinating to look at and play with.
I guess it could be hereditary, as both my daughters Meagan (8) and Evelyn (4) have started their own collections. Meagan is really interested in science and history and collects items such as fossils and gems alongside typical collections of badge pins, coins and moshi monster cards. Evelyn has only just begun hers so its mainly toys and interestingly shaped stones.
I have a young family so most of my personal work is done whilst on holiday. I'm always getting funny looks as I photograph objects that most people never take a second glance at, for me that’s the best part, seeing interesting things in the everyday.
All images © Andrew Pearsall and used with kind permission.