Every object or artifact has a story. What brings an otherwise meaningless object from the mundane world into a treasured and nostalgic family heirloom is the story behind it.
Mankind has been interested in artifacts for centuries. Just look at the popularity of museums and TV shows highlighting antique and vintage items.
Artifacts can invoke either good or bad memories depending on the owner’s experience and interaction with the object. What might be a rather unremarkable piece of jewellery to some is a beloved family treasure to another. A cherished piece that can be passed on from generation to generation.
What’s even more unique about objects and artifacts is that they have the amazing ability to transcend time and space. When an object is passed on to another generation, that generation bears the weight and responsibility of keeping its memories alive. It's as if the original owner passes his or her story down to future generations through a particular object of great personal importance.
New York City based photographer Shana Novak turns family objects and heirlooms into remarkable works of modern art. Having established her reputation as a commercial still life photographer, her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Time and The New Yorker.
I first saw her story on CBS This Morning Saturday and was intrigued by her ability to take otherwise everyday objects and find a way to celebrate the incredible stories behind them.
To prep the photo shoots, no detail is spared. A teddy bear gets the ‘right’ expression. Combat boots are set up still showing their blood soaked battle scars. An old crumbling notebook is propped up inviting you into the harrowing world of a Holocaust survivor. After a Mom’s passing, a well-loved family recipe book highlighting her mouth-watering fried chicken recipe is propped up beside her favourite cooking utensil. In these photoshoots, the object is always the star of the show.
Throughout her creative work, Novak realizes that our artifacts define us. They represent our stories and history through our own eyes and personal experiences. She gives objects the personalities they need to shine. The ability to take centre stage. After all, in a frenzied world so often filled with chaos and confusion, doesn’t everyone want to hang on to objects and memories that truly matter? Sometimes, in order to reconnect with our roots, we all need to dig deep into our past and make the old new again.