Lost & Found

May 9 th 2008

I began collecting abandoned photographs in 1978 in Calgary, Alberta when I came across a box of old portrait photographs at a garage sale. Over many years and numerous geographical moves, the collection increased. A reoccurring thought I had was that these unknown people, all of whom had in someway influenced us, had mostly no names, and certainly no stories that could be accessed. I hoped to someday give these nameless faces the respect of a home rather than leaving them stuck in a box or pawned off as junk.

I also collect old books. Unlike the abandoned photographs, the background stories of these books are very accessible. Everything you want or need to know about a book's origins is right there—the cover, title, date of publication, and of course the text all tell the book's story. This seemed imbalanced to me. After all, aren't people more important than books?

So I began the process of incorporating the two, physically and metaphorically, by using the books as backdrops and supports for the photos. The books are no longer accessible, because they have been sealed shut. Their titles and texts are lost, buried underneath layers of oil and wax. And the unknown faces are no longer abandoned, but are prominently displayed, giving them a place of importance and, hopefully, reminding us that every person has value because we are each known by someone.

Topics: Arts

Petra Zantingh is an artist and graphic designer, as well as an adjunct lecturer in the Fine Arts and Education departments at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario. Her work is in private and corporate collections in Canada, the United States, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.