Callum O'Keefe: Antiques of the Future

The body of work investigates the relationship between collectors and their possessions; exploring how ordinary, commonplace objects become extraordinary through the often-obsessive act of collecting.

© Callum O'Keefe | Antiques of the Future
© Callum O'Keefe | Antiques of the Future

As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Memorabilia has a rich history that goes back centuries, certainly to the start of the Industrial Revolution at the very least, but collecting as a hobby can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia. Present-day collections stem from the so-called “cabinet of curiosities” which was a physical cabinet with a transparent front and sometimes sides to allow the viewer to observe unusual objects. The philosopher Carl Jung linked the urge to collect with the hunting and gathering from the days of yore and the human instinct for survival; others think it’s more closely connected to the innate need of the human brain for associations and cataloging.

Callum O’Keefe’s father was an avid collector and his obsession with Coca-Cola and Tretchikoff paintings turned into a vast collection. As it is no longer in its entirety, O’Keefe decided to use his camera to document people with a passion for collecting to vicariously understand his dad’s mindset. The hobby is most commonly a choice and it can sometimes have educational benefits; it is also a relaxing activity, an antidote to the stress of modern life. Collecting stamps or old coins, for example, is seen as the pinnacle of collecting and as a highly sophisticated and, at times, financially rewarding activity. Almost all objects would guarantee that one would become a part of a community and form social bonds — it’s unlikely that you’d be the only person who thought of collecting cans of Heinz beans, for example, but you might, however, decide that you want to become the one with the most cans, thus creating a sense of, hopefully, healthy competition.

© Callum O'Keefe | Antiques of the Future
© Callum O'Keefe | Antiques of the Future

O’Keefe’s project Antiques of the Future documents all sorts of collections. Star Wars figurines, peculiar orange boots, vintage vacuum cleaners in different colours, baked beans paraphernalia (including a necklace made of beans), you name it. It’s a body of work that speaks of individual oddities and makes us realise that everyone is different with their own little quirks and peculiarities.

Sign up for the newsletter to read this post

We support independent documentary photographers and photojournalists by promoting their work. Read unique documentary stories with our newsletter.

Subscribe to mnngful stories

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.