What's Left Behind? Essay
Andrew Morris: What’s Left Behind?Over time, a home adopts he characteristics of its owner. Objects, photographs
and furniture become intimately familiar, conjuring memories and attachments
deeply rooted within a specific location. In Andrew Morris’ photographs we see a
series of ordinary domestic interiors, removed of physical human presence except
for remaining personal possessions.
The images document houses at the point of sale following the passing of the
owner, isolating a moment of transition. The camera clicks; the shutter opens,
lets the light in and closes. Inside the dark body of the camera, settling on to the
film is a permanent record of a moment; tangible evidence of a moment in time
The photographic process is an act of inclusions and omission. A sense of
absence give the images their power: the mark of an object moved, the tear of
wallpaper, the lone coat. These small gestures point towards something of the
past, removed from the visible frame. The images are filled with small pensive
reminders of a life that ruminates within the space: these melancholic physical
symbols of a human presence carry the mark of the person who once owned them.
The empty chair is a recurring motif throughout the series. It is an object designed
to offer comfort and respite to its owner, now sitting empty and without function.
The indentation on the seat reveals a physical trace of someone who is no longer
there, reinforcing a sense of loss.
The use of blank space within the frame is equally as evocative as the depiction
of personal objects. The muted palette of white walls, cream carpets and pale
wallpapers make the spaces seem larger, accentuating the absence within the
room. While the objects invite us to look closer, the expanse of space requires us
to step back and view the interior as a whole. In What’s Left Behind? Emptiness
highlights the nature of domestic spaces as containers of people, possessions
and memories. In Morris’ images we are invited in to contemplate the nature of our
own home and our personal relationships with them.
The photographs use the doorway as a framing device, looking out of one
space and into the next. The door becomes a threshold between the here
and there, representing a shift in time. We are positioned within a moment of
transition, distanced from the interior room, on the outside looking in. As the
house changes ownership, we become witness to a layering of history. The
bricks of the building contain the residue of its former occupants, their history
contained within each room.
To be allowed to enter someone’s house puts the photographer in a position of
trust, particularly during such a moment of upheaval. Morris’ intimate photographs
carry a quiet sensitivity to an emotive subject matter. Morris’s photographs
represent a poignant time, as the final possessions of the owner are removed and
the house is sold. The interiors inevitably change but the photograph remains.
Sontag, S, On Photography (Penguin Books: London, 1977) p.15“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in
another person’s [or thing’s] mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicinout this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.
Text by Rory Duckhouse