18 October 2021

Picking and Sorting as Acts to Create Meaning

18 October 2021 - Written by PhMuseum

German photographer Caroline Heinecke focuses on those apparently useless collections of objects to investigate and understand how humans inform the materiality of things by abstracting them from their natural environment and placing them next to each other.

Of all the motives that move people in their innermost being and make them act, there is hardly one that does not have its origin in collecting. By accumulating and presenting things of the most varied kinds, people gain orientation and not only live out their passion but also their vanity and their drive for power.

Objects have always been selected and accumulated, whether to use or purely observe, and information has always been collected so that it can be shared or facilitate decision-making. But it is precisely in an age when information is gathered to increase the capital that I am spurred on to depart from this trend and turn my attention to collections that seek to represent the supposedly useless.

Regine von Chossy from Munich, for example, collects hair and exhibits it in her own hair museum with dated and signed hair donations. The photographer Karl-Ludwig Lange collects bricks because the stamps on them reveal the local history of his surroundings. The preparator Navena Widulin from Berlin collects gallstones, thus continuing a tradition of the Berlin Medical History Museum of the Charité. It is almost as if the objects in the collections had been collected under the gaze of their masters as if they were in fact subjects. For if one looks at the pictures through the collector’s eyes and with their innocence, what has just been declared nonsensical, strange, worthless, even disgusting or foolish suddenly becomes clear, familiar, beautiful, and fascinating.

Words and Pictures by Caroline Heinecke.


Caroline Heinecke, born in 1986 in Nordhausen in the Harz Mountains, studied visual communication at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Dessau. In 2017 she decided to express her feeling for compositions of colours, forms and arrangements through another medium – photography. The patient objects often take on the role of supporting actors until the photographer lets us see them through her eyes. The reality reflected in her photographs appears slightly removed, in a sense centred and alive in its motionlessness. Find her on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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