Estate sales have become a common way for people to dispose of their parents’ possessions after they die or move to assisted living. Over the course of a year, Norm Diamond visited countless estate sales in Dallas, Texas, photographing objects that evoke sadness, humor, and ironic commentary on American cultural history. The resulting images are gathered in Diamond’s first monograph: What is Left Behind — Stories from Estate Sales (Daylight Books, May 16, 2017).
The articles Diamond came upon defy conventional expectations: a science project from 1939, a century-old letter from a rejected lover, and a complete collection of Playboy magazines. Poignant photographs of these possessions reveal clues about otherwise unknowable people. They take on a life of their own, both in the images and in the idea they will now move on to new owners.
Diamond photographed items at the sales, and also bought objects that he took back to his home studio. There he used different lighting and backgrounds to alter or emphasize his interpretation of them. As his spending limit was $25 per purchase, he looked primarily at middle-class or working-class homes that reminded him of his Mid-Western upbringing. It was in these homes that he found the most intriguing things to photograph.
Wedding Night Negligee; Stetsons and Old Spice
In his introduction, Diamond describes how his previous 35-year career as an interventional radiologist helped him choose the items to photograph for this book. As a physician, Diamond would spend hours sifting through hundreds of computer images of each patient’s anatomy in search of a few pictures showing abnormalities that, when discovered, could lead to life-saving treatments. This search technique, requiring quick yes/no decisions, aided him with the daunting task of singling out a few interesting items at each estate sale from hundreds of banal articles.
LBJ with Fishhooks; China Painting Palette
Some of the objects evoke Dallas, but it is also the Dallas of 1960, 1972, 1986, each home representing a time capsule. Objects include a plate featuring the face of President Lyndon Johnson with fishhooks on it, an old copy of the
Dallas Morning News with the headline “Thousands Pay Homage to Martyred President,” referencing the assassination of JFK, and a closet shelf stacked with Stetson cowboy hats.
At the back of the book, Diamond provides some fascinating, sometimes humorous Endnotes on select images. Among them is one for the Playboy Collection pictured below. He writes: “The man running the sale asked $750 for the entire collection and refused to sell individual copies. That the magazines were spread out on the hearth was not lost on me.”
Playboy Collection; Marilyn Puzzle
In her essay, Kat Kiernan writes: “The complexity of a person’s life cannot be truly understood from their possessions alone, and Diamond makes no claims to such an understanding. Instead, he gravitates to scenes of sadness, humor, banality and absurdity to present broader ideas of what it means to be human. These unusual scenes, punctuated by price tags, signs, and awkward displays, remind us that when a life comes to an end, it does so with loose ends left untidy.”
Everything Must Go; Off Limits
An accompanying exhibition featuring images from What Is Left Behind will open at the Afterimage Gallery (2613B Fairmount Street, Dallas Texas, 75201) on May 20 and remain on view through Wednesday, July 12. There will be an opening reception and book signing with Norm Diamond on Saturday, May 20 from 7:30-9:30PM. For more information, go to: www.afterimagegallery.com.
Norm Diamond’s photographs from What Is Left Behind – Stories from Estate Sales
have been shown at the Houston Center for Photography, the Davis Orton Gallery in Hudson, NY, and the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, MA. Based on this series, he was named a finalist in the 2015 and 2016 Photolucida Critical Mass competitions. Work from his previous projects have been exhibited in juried group shows including A. Smith Gallery, TX, PhotoPlace Gallery, VT, Center for Fine Art Photography, CO, as well as several online galleries. His work has been featured on several blogs: Lenscratch, Elizabeth Avedon, aCurator, Slate.com, and PDN Photo of the Day. Diamond is now a fulltime fine art photographer after a career in interventional radiology. He has studied with Debbie Fleming Caffery, Sean Kernan, Keith Carter, Arno Minkkinen, Aline Smithson and has been mentored by Cig Harvey. In addition to his teachers, he attributes much of his success in photography to his experiences as a physician. For more information, go to: http://normdiamondphoto.com.
Kat Kiernan is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Don’t Take Pictures, a print and online photography publication. As the former owner and director of The Kiernan Gallery, she has designed and managed numerous thematic exhibitions, curating both solo and pop-up shows. She has reviewed portfolios for Photolucida’s Critical Mass, FotoWeek DC, and PhotoNOLA, and lectured on photography at various institutions. In 2015 she received the Rising Star Award from the Griffin Museum of Photography for her contributions to the photographic community. Kiernan resides in Brooklyn, New York. She is the Assistant Director of Louis K. Meisel Gallery. She holds a BFA in photography from Lesley University College of Art and Design.
All photographs in this press release are copyright 2016 © Norm Diamond.
To view the book PDF, go here.
ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:
Daylight is a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing art and photography books. By exploring the documentary mode along with the more conceptual concerns of fine art, Daylight’s uniquely collectible publications work to revitalize the relationship between art, photography, and the world-at-large. For more information, visit www.daylightbooks.org.
128 pages, 10 x 10 inches
66 color photographs; $45.00 US
DAYLIGHT MEDIA CONTACT:
+ 1 646-220-5950
Art, Art, and more Art