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A Photographer Color-Codes Her Life, In Stunning Still Lifes

The baroque photographs of Accidental Archives were staged using the mundane belongings of the artist.

Sara Cwynar is a collector. The Canadian photographer, who works for the New York Times Magazine, says that the impulse to save and archive is “constant.” On her Tumblr, images of in-progress work–dense collections of photos, knick-knacks, and other ephemera–reflect an artist who is fascinated by the objects we surround ourselves with.

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Cwynar’s latest series, Accidental Archives, pushes her archival instinct to an almost obsessive place. Each photograph shows a carefully arranged selection of her belongings, organized by color. “The concept began as a means of working my way through this massive collection of images and objects that I am always gathering and saving,” she explains to Co.Design. “Then I arranged the collections into still lifes, starting with the color but moving on from there to contain narratives and ideas.”

In yellow, lemons and Kodak photography supplies mingle. Pink, of course, is the most gendered photograph–hair curlers, cleaning gloves, and flowers–and an ominous cellophane carton of uncooked meat. Photos are much in evidence, too. “The photos deal with the tropes of photography,” Cwynar says. “I collect examples of traditional forms of photography: the studio still life is most prominent here, then the class portrait, the news photo, the product shot, the leftover photo of your ex-boyfriend, the souvenir postcard, and many others.”

“It’s about working through all the junk and souvenirs and photos we accumulate,” adds Cwynar. “And also the collective body of photographs we see and understand in our culture.” Accidental Archives is on view now at Cooper Cole Gallery in Toronto.

[h/t DesignBoom]

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.

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