REPORT ON MANTLEPIECES
As a first test of your powers of observation, try the following:-
Write down in order from left to right, all the objects on your mantlepiece, mentioning what is in the middle.
Then make lists for mantlepieces in other people’s houses, giving in each case a few details about the people concerned, whether they are old, middle-aged or young, whether they are well off or otherwise, What class (roughly) they belong to. Send these lists in.
If possible, also take photographs of mantlepieces.
Directive to New Observers – Mass Observation c.1937
Reading Picturing Ourselves (p 93, Wells), I remembered the note I made of the Directive to New Observers at the Mass Observation exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery (Aug-Sep, 2013) at much the same time as I found myself identifying with Humphrey Spender’s description of himself on page 94, as an outsider exploiting others while picturing them. This exercise – create a still life and at the same time create a network of points – seemed a good way to combine that identification with an attempt to start characterising who the me who takes photographs is. Also, the amount of stuff from holidays, work trips etc etc that had silted up on the mantlepiece needed dusting and thinning out. I decided to clear everything off and start again, building up a still life from some of the things that were there as I went.