This thesis compliments my photographic investigation into an individual and societal preoccupation with collecting and the narrative or symbolic power of objects. My experiences as a child surrounded by my father’s mass collection of civil war artifacts prompted my continued interest in the pursuit of collecting and also to question the nature of hobby versus obsession. In this paper, I consider the personal and social conditions present in Western society that inform an inherent need to possess, create order, gain status, knowledge and to preserve. I discuss the creation of a persona through possession, but also question to what extent one’s identity is interdependent on those possessions. I began my thesis by placing advertisements online and in community centers in which I invited people to pose with their collections in their homes. The domestic spaces emphasized the intimate nature of the images and suggested a dialogue between owner and possession. This relationship creates a portrait of psychological expression, but also of the universal desire to derive meaning through possession. The photographic medium supported these basic human desires to possess, preserve and express, allowing us to begin to imagine realities based on what is represented. The title of each image references my own interaction with each person and perception of the experience. This thesis reflects my interest in the curiosities of human condition, while the accompanying images become a photographic collection of collecting itself.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Portrait photography--Themes, motives; Portrait photography--Technique; Collectors and collecting--Psychological aspects

Publication Date


Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (CIAS)


O’Neil, Elaine

Advisor/Committee Member

Larkin, Dan


Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works. Physical copy available through RIT's The Wallace Library at: TR680 .C65 2008


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