Work in Progress
There are two accent chairs in the front entry of my parents’ home that sit mostly unused. I imagine this wasn’t always the case, though, as my mom purchased them from an estate sale in her neighborhood. I imagine those chairs supported a toddler’s hands or a cat's long afternoon nap, or maybe a string of wild dinner parties. Then again maybe it spent much of its life covered in dust. I imagine those chairs have a story.
In the United States an estate sale is a liquidation of an entire home, usually through a third party company, and most commonly when someone dies or downsizes to assisted living. The morning of an estate sale, shoppers line up along the street for a chance to enter and sift through personal items; and they seem to do it without regard for the person who collected those things. This private space, this home, is so easily and so bizarrely picked apart.
I started this project in 2021 after leaving my first estate sale, where I entered as one of the scavengers and stumbled upon the owner’s unwashed bathrobe hanging on a hook on the back of the bathroom door. I took a picture then held my breath until I was driving home.
More than the history of the estate sale items, I am interested in the remnants of attachment from its owner that persist even once the owner has passed on. If each collected item is a statement about its owner then together a person’s physical collection of possessions makes up an epic novel of their fully lived life. We spend our lifetimes building up this personal space, filling it with memories, and then often leave someone else to take it apart once we are gone: to dismantle our life’s representation.
I have since then visited a series of homes, with the intent to process my own feelings about the experience as well as to explore greater themes of mortality and family, trying to understand more deeply how people hold memories of their lost loved ones. I have purchased photographs and artworks by the deceased- feeling compelled to respect their legacy in that way. And together with my partner I have had hard conversations with my loved ones about our own physical legacy.
It is my most earnest hope that though our possessions may be forsaken, they leave an imprint.
Photo essay will be released in late 2021.
Pamela is a documentary photographer and artist based in Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
She is committed to amplifying suppressed voices with story, and handing women photographic tools to journal their own lives.