For the past 5 years Rob Meyers, creative director of Clash magazine, has been sending out disposable cameras to a variety of his friends, co-workers and muse, all of whom happen to be artists, musicians, photographers and editors at the top of their game. In return he asked them all to take pictures of the contents of their favourite parts of their home, ranging from their most treasured piece of furniture to the light in their favourite room at a certain point of the day. The only rule being they had to photograph the contents of their fridge. We caught up with Rob to talk about the inspirations behind his latest book.
WONDERLAND: Hi Rob, so tell us how did you come up with idea for the project?
This book began in 2007, when a friend told me how amazing a mutual friend’s house was. I visited and fell in love with their interior style; it was so personal, strong, vibrant, intimate and for the most part, unseen. I left feeling inspired, but also a little sad that I didn’t get to live there. Over the next few days I couldn’t stop thinking about this space. I’ve always been fascinated by interiors. My mom worked in interior design in the late 80s and early 90s and memories of that time have stuck; whether the beauty of bold and innovative modern spaces or the hell of hand-ragged walls and chintz on chintz that persisted as a hangover from the 1980s. By the time I visited the aforementioned home of note, I was interning between fashion and style bibles POP and Arena Homme+, and working with some big personalities, big looks and even bigger egos – it was and is all part of the fun. And I started to wonder what all these incredible characters’ homes looked like. What if someone who was perfectly polished and put together in public actually lived in a hoarders’ dream-home? Would their perfectly pressed camel coat really have been pulled from a poky wardrobe, the moth holes hidden on the inside? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But I was intrigued. So I started asking people to share their homes.
Using my own home as a starting point, I shot a single roll of film and sent the results, along with a letter asking for the same, to the first few contributors – after all, why would people share their homes if I wouldn’t share mine, I reasoned? Then, to my surprise, people started saying yes. They seemed to like the idea that it was non-intrusive. I wasn’t going to visit myself and they could choose what to share. Then, the cameras started coming back – and they’re still coming. Some of the photos surprise me, some don’t. But they all inspire me. Sometimes I get a whole house, other times its just one room. Sometimes I get the full twenty-seven images back, sometimes my contributors only choose to take ten images. And sometimes, just occasionally, I get one image – but sometimes one image is all you need.
This project has been running now for five years. It began life as part of my final year project at Central Saint Martins and was then developed by London-based Garage magazine, who helped me source some amazing homes after inviting the ‘Behind Closed Doors’ concept into the pages of their biannual art and fashion publication. Then, I continued it on my own, sometimes leaving it untouched for months, other times working on it frenziedly as cameras flowed in from across the world on a daily basis. Finally, it’s ready to share.
How did you select the contributers featured in the book?
Contributors for the book vary, sometimes they are friends or peers, sometimes they are someone I work with, other times there are someone I really want but have to work out a way to get to them, sometimes it works, sometimes its doesn’t, I suppose thats the joy and excitement of the project. I nearly always about 20 cameras out with requests, who comes back with ones is all part of the excitement, this is definitely an ongoing project.
Whose images shocked you the most when they came back?
I think I was most shocked by Courtney Love, who sent back 7 cameras!? (I only sent her 1), she had covered her entire home (and wardrobe), but the part where my role comes in is editing the images to an interesting, exhilarating and coherent glimse at these homes, giving just enough, but not too much. Oh, I was also pretty shocked to find out that Marc Quinn owns a pet owl, then I flipped to the next picture only to see a container of his own blood in his freezer for which he uses to refill his self portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.
Which images were you most excited by?
Most Excited, its split between the famous paralympian, turned infamous 90’s McQueen model Aimee Mullins, who’s camera jarred after one shot, leaving me with one image – the most perfect shot of her lined up artificial legs on a monochromatic rug. That, and someone who I am a huge fan of – little known New York writer and curator Vince Aletti, who has the most incredible and striking understated spectacle of a home, filled with personal collections, ranging from stack after stack of vintage head shots, to original art works by Andy Warhol, Collier Shorr, Ari Marcopolous, Nan Goldin, Larry Clark and Anexandr Rodchenko. Oh and of course Martha Stuart, just because I never dreamt she would have done me a camera?!
What’s your favourite photograph from the book?
There are quite a few, as you can imagine. but I love the image of Martha Stuarts bank of 6 fridges in her up state New York home, with a perfect place for everything – its like the ultimate luxury supermarket, but in someones home. I also adore the image of Courtney Love’s wedding cake topper collection, the one of which that sits highest comes form her and Kurt Cobain’s wedding cake.
Were there any images that you couldn’t run?
Ha, not really, Rupert Thomas (editor in Chief of ‘World of Interiors’ magazine who wrote my Foreword), even mentions how he feels he has “missed a trick in how many Phalluses are in the book”!! So no, I dont tend to edit my contributors too much!!
Whose posessions are you most jealous of?
Hmmm, its tough, I’m crazy jealous of, as mentioned, Vince Alettis years of curated collections. But then Jeremy Scotts collections of 1970’s and 80’s Memphis furniture is insanely amazing. He also has some great pop culture filled cabinets in his kitchen. Oh, and of course the 17th century silk covered Baroque half tester bed that was gifted to the owner of Cornish Manor, Lord Perrigrine, by Christopher Gibbs in the 1960’s. I’m also super jealous of The Murakami cushions Nicola Formichetti has scattered through his living space, but probably just because I’ve wanted them for years, hahaha. Oh and I want the Haring exhibition poster from home of bookshop owner Conor Donlon, its so good. Oh and basically anything in ‘The White Lodge’ the mid century Yorkshire home of the Lorimers, who’s house is entirely filled with the most incredible collections of Mid Century furniture. So, yeah, a lot of stuff, I suppose this is why I started the project in the first place.
Whats the best thing about doing this project?
I think the most amazing thing about this process is that, for the most part, the homeowners themselves don’t see the images before I do. They shoot blind and return the camera undeveloped, generous and trusting, not knowing what it contains. So I hope they’re as excited to see these images now as I am when I first receive a camera back in the mail and rush to have it developed. A lot of people ask: why a disposable camera? Why don’t you just go to the house yourself and shoot it ‘properly’? And my response is always the same: if I was coming over to your house, and I’d never seen it before, would you make the bed and tidy up and artfully arrange things before I arrive? Most people say ‘yes, of course’, and then they realize the purpose of the project, It’s not about capturing a ‘perfect home’, it’s about revealing a personal space; taking those quiet moments and sharing them with myself and a wider audience.