Photographer Barbara Ivains cataloged all 12,795 items in her home. That’s what she found

Written Oscar Holland, CNN

After going through a divorce and moving home for the 11th time, Barbara Ivains decided to take stock of her life and everything in it.

Moving from room to room, she spent nearly five years documenting every item she owned, from scattered Lego bricks and old key chains to remote controls, kitchen utensils and knick-knacks.

The resulting 12,795 images are an intimate, unfiltered portrait of the Belgian photographer. Her uncompromising approach – a vibrator and a dental cast among many personal items in her inventory – is almost the exact opposite of today’s social networks, where users are closely watching what they show the world.

“Everyone is trying to protect themselves by showing an idealized version of their life,” Iveins said by phone from France. currently on display at the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival. “So, I thought, ‘OK, I’ll show it all, this has to be real.'”
Photographing her belongings, Ivains classified them by color, material and frequency of use (from once a day to never). Her spreadsheet provided a flood of ideas both surprising and fun. Blue is the dominant color in her home, accounting for 16% of all items, and 22% of her clothes are black. Of the items in her bathroom, 43% are plastic. About 90% of the cables in her house are never used and 19% of her books go unread.

Among her most surprising finds were the many metal combs that were used to extract lice from her three children’s hair. “This is something we lose all the time, and I found that I have six or seven of these things,” she said. “I was surprised by all the things I kept losing and buying again.”

An example of the many items featured in Barbara Ivains' book. "Catalog."

An example of many of the items featured in the Catalog by Barbara Ivains. Credit: Barbara Ivaines

The project prompted the photographer to think about his own materialism and about the consumerism of society as a whole. She estimated that 121,046 euros (about $124,000) was spent on the entire contents of her house, although her inventory showed that only 1% of items had sentimental value. However, she retains what she calls a “connection” to her thousands of possessions.

“It’s a little sad,” she said. “And I completely understand because my friends are mostly travelers and they do look at me with a bit of pity, but having (a relationship with my stuff) puts me at ease.”

And although a self-proclaimed “neurotic collector”, the photographer does not consider himself a curmudgeon. “I give away a lot, I don’t over-buy – I think I’m a regular person,” she said.

“I know it’s a lot,” she added. But I thought there would be more.

Act of “self-preservation”

In the new book Accompanying a series called “Catalogue”, the photographer organizes his belongings by type, with entire pages devoted to stationery, cleaning products and toy animals. When viewed in bulk, the images take on a hypnotic graphic quality, revealing seemingly endless variations in everyday forms.

And while individual photographs often look mundane, individual photographs contain stories of her life: a salacious novel she borrowed from her father’s library at 16, a hospital bracelet she wore during childbirth, or anxiety medication she began taking in her 40 years.

Over the years, Iveins has dedicated an average of 15 hours a week to the project. Putting order in chaos became a kind of “therapy” that helped her survive not only the divorce, but also the subsequent death of her boyfriend.

“When I started, I really thought I was tired of moving home and moving my stuff,” she said. “And then I realized that this was not the case at all. It was more like an act of self-preservation – doing something (for the series) every day was actually organizing my life in my head. It was a positive thing. process.

“Now that the project is complete and I have determined which objects are valuable, I can start living,” she added. “Everyone was there for a reason, I guess.”

Catalog“on display at the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival until September 25, 2022. bookpublished by Delpire & Co is already available.