Skip to main content

Parrish Dobson

Fine Art Color and
Black and White Photography

The Touch of a Distant Hand

Exploring the patina of use on simple kitchen objects and tools

Project StatementMinimize
What is it that moves us about “old things?” What is it about the garden scissors our mother once used that makes them so inexplicably sweet, sweeter than their humble shape, their rusty blades? Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet, said it so well in his poem “Ode to Common Things”: I loveallthings...because...all bear the trace...of someone’s fingers…on their handle or surface…the touch of a distant hand.   I began this series  when visiting friends who were renting a home in Blue Hill, Maine that had been owned by one family continuously for eighty years. The kitchen drawers were an archive of outdated tools, some of them elegant in their design, all of them “touched by a distant hand.” I photographed many objects from that home. Then I continued photographing on North Haven Island, in local homes, and with permission, in the North Haven Museum. I have chosen smaller objects, scaled to the hand, from the kitchen or the tool shed. Not all objects that are old are also beautiful or evocative. I selected ones that moved me because of their design, because of the patina of use, because of the sense of the life this object may have had in someone’s hand. Like other artists before me, I bring to an audience this question: are not many of these completely common objects exquisite in their own right though not intended as “art” when first made or used? Photographing in natural light, I isolated each object on linen or lace as a way of bringing them to our attention in a new almost sacred space, one that allows contemplation on time, use, history, the wear and tear of life, and the simple loveliness of considered design.