Caroline Heinecke
Herr der Dinge

Regine von Chossy collects hair and exhibits it in her own hair museum with dated and signed hair donations. Karl Ludwig Lange collects bricks from which he draws conclusions about the history of his surroundings, and Navena Widulin collects gallstones, continuing a tradition in the laboratory at the Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité. Of all the motivations that stand behind people’s actions, there is hardly anything that does not have its origins in collecting. By compiling and displaying the most diverse objects, people find orientation and live out not only their passions, but also their vanity and drive for power. Objects have always been selected and collected, either for use or purely for viewing, and information has always been compiled for exchange and to aid in decision-making. Photographer Caroline Heinecke has devoted herself to these collections, whose motivating factors may not be clear and which, at first glance, may seem whimsical or even bizarre.

  • Bizzare
  • Collecting
3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a formative moment in your career as a visual journalist?

There was no formative moment in this sense, I have always photographed a lot, but I decided quite late to go a professional way as a still-life photographer and to study Photography again. Therefore, I would not call myself a photojournalist, but an artistic still-life photographer. With my work “Lord of Things” I pursue a documentary approach.

2. The decisive moment: When did you first encounter your topic and why did you decide to cover it photographically?

A friend of mine had a braided long tail at the back of his head for a very long time, which he had to part from due to lice infestation. He kept it in a preserving jar. Years later he met Regine von Chossy, a lady from Munich with a private hair museum, at an art exhibition about hair. He went to her and donated his braid to the hair museum. This story and especially the museum gave me the idea to research and photograph more curious collections.

3. The future: What could the visual journalism of the future be like?

Hopefully the quality of the pictures will still be a criterion for good photojournalism. An anecdote from my photography history professor hits the nail on the head: he compares photography with language. Everybody knows one or the other language, but not everybody is able to write a good book because of that. In spite of technological progress, creative photojournalists are of crucial importance in order to formulate untold stories pictorially, while at the same time paying attention to good image composition.

Clock collection.

Toenail folder.

Please tell me more about your career as a photographer and about your work "Lord of Things“

My career as a photographer started quite late. I have always photographed a lot, but I decided to study photography about four years ago and work in the direction of still life. Before studying photography I studied design and worked as a graphic designer. This is also reflected in my visual language. Especially in still life photography, where I build up the picture from the beginning, I have to think about where to place which object, how the colour effect should be and what the light can contribute to the final touch.
For my final thesis at the Ostkreuzschule in Berlin I chose a topic where I can use still life photography for documentaries. The work “Lord of Things” is very extensive, because there are so many curious collections and is not yet finished. So far I have photographed about 15 collections. The number 15 was actually my upper limit that I wanted to photograph, but I had so much fun during this work and just can’t stop looking for more quirky collections. I will continue to photograph until 2021, but I will limit myself to the area of Germany. A book is planned in which the most beautiful collections will be shown.

Which is your favorite picture of the series?

One of my favourite pictures from series shows a match from the collection of sick matches by Frieder Butzmann. The match is terminally ill and belongs to the genus of the headless. This useless match not only arouses the pity of the collector, but also touched me deeply when I saw it for the first time. While I was photographing it, I had to be very careful with it and used a pair of tweezers to place its head in a suitable place. Beside the headless match that turns out to be the “Blue Mauritius” of the collection, there are also the crooked ones, the split-headed ones, the starved ones, the siamese twins ones and those with skin diseases. The motivation of Frieders collection originated from the reason to simply collect something. Right at the beginning of my research for “Lord of Things”, I came across the sick matches of Frieder, who also happened to be a musician in my record collection. All the more I was glad that I was allowed to meet him personally and that he will be part of my work. 

Can you give us some details about your photographic process?

A very large part of the work consists of research, visiting and contacting the collectors. After making contact, I go to the collectors’ homes, get to know them and photograph the objects on site, where they are collected, stored and archived. Usually I need one to three days for this, depending on the size of the collection. It has also happened that I went to a collector several times because I was not satisfied with the pictures. All the people I have met so far have even been very open to me and my work. Some of them have assisted me, held the reflector and contributed ideas for photographs.

There aren't portraits of all collectors. Some of them refuse to be portrayed or or did you decide not to show their portrait?

For each collection there is only one portrait of the collector, but I had to persuade some collectors to have their portrait taken. I will show these portraits later in my book, they are not meant for the Lumix-exhibition as the focus of my work is more on the collected objects. In the photographs the collector becomes an object as well as his treasures and object of our astonishment.

Some photos show objects that might make many people feel disgusted. How did you feel while photographing them?

I was very disgusted when I took photos of the toenail collection and was glad that the toenails were already glued to paper and I didn’t have to touch them. However, it was more important to me to take good pictures of the somewhat disgusting objects and I concentrated completely on my work. The longer I photographed the toenails, the less I was afraid of touching them. The toenail collection was on the table, so at some point it was no longer a problem for me. The collector was also so nice, helped with the shooting and we had coffee together on his terrace. 

Do you have a collection?

I myself started my own curious collection during this work. I collect portraits of myself, which were drawn by street artists. Whenever I meet a street artist I have a portrait drawn of me. If somebody is on the road accompanying me, he or she just becomes part of the drawing. For me the best portraits are the ones where you don’t recognize yourself at all.

Curated by Nicole Heinsohn

© for all photos by the photographers
© for videos Lumix Festival Hanover, if not indicated otherwise.

*1986 in Nordhausen, Germany
Caroline Heinecke studied at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences and the Ostkreuzschule für Fotografie in Berlin. She specialises in still-life and product photography, making visible the hitherto undiscovered characteristics of her photo objects. She spotlights the undervalued functions of the objects she photographs.


More Picture Series