What Manifests From Us?

My interest in the idea of unconventional heirlooms originally stemmed from my parents’ relationship; specifically, the great distances my parents have gone to grow and maintain their bond. For a little background, my parents met when they were living in North Carolina. My dad had just finished a position at the International Business Machines Corporation and was planning to move back home to Australia. My mom worked as a travel agent in North Carolina at the time, and they happened to meet when he was planning his trip home. They only had two brief dates before he flew back to Australia. Despite the distance, they felt such a strong connection that they decided to write letters to each other. Over the next six months, they wrote to each other often and eventually decided my mom should fly out to visit my dad and meet his family.
This trip cemented their relationship, and a few years later, they were married. Back in North Carolina, my mom had my older brother, Kevin, from her previous marriage. With a young child already growing up in the United States, my parents decided to stay in the US, but relocated to Oregon for a job opportunity. My parents’ backgrounds combined with their additional move out west spread our family farther apart on the map. Between visiting my mom’s family in the south and my dad’s family in Australia, my brothers and I have had a very unique upbringing culturally. While it was fun to travel when we were younger to see my grandparents, this has become less feasible since I’ve become a teenager due to financial and health strains.

The separation from my family has enhanced my fascination with things that are able to fill the role of the physical connection that I’m missing. I have found that objects passed on from my extended family were a tool for this. Heirlooms could serve as a glue for the connection I wasn’t always able to experience in person. Additionally, heirlooms were able to make me feel more connected with the person I shared the object with, and reignite memories of that person. While my interest in heirlooms began with my own family, I became fascinated with how they could apply to my friendships as well. I feel fortunate to have a strong community of friends that often fill the roles that traditional families do in the absence of my extended family living close by. However, heirlooms are not often regarded in the context of friendships, partners, or other types of kinships outside of blood relatives. Heirlooms born of friendships have served me in strengthening connections and reinvigorating these non-familial relationships. In my eyes, these purposes could apply to any type of relationship and do not need to be restricted to traditional family models.

Moving forward with these thoughts, I sought to address if heirlooms could be found in friendships, partnerships, and other kinships. The results of my three key findings from my research culminated in a photo series of the unconventional heirlooms and friendships of the people that I have interviewed. This photo series lives here, as a long-lasting archive digital archive, that interprets each different relationship visually, based on the conversations had with each pair of friends.