In John Ironmonger’s book “The Notable Brain of Maximillian Ponder”, the main character Max decides to create a catalogue of his brain by isolating himself for 30 years and keeping an account of every single memory available in the folds and curves of his mind. He names his work Katalog. The novel is packed with philosophical excerpts and plenty of humour. As a matter of fact, there is also a fair share of melancholy towards the end. Max is not the focus today, but photographer Barbara Iwiens created an ongoing project with the same title as Max’s.

Passionate about photography since the age of 11, the artist took a purely introvertist approach in 2018 by deciding to photograph her personal life. For 15 hours a week and over two years, she classified more than 10,000 objects – 10,532 to be precise –according to colour and created a special category titled “what I would save in a fire” based on their sentimental value. Then, she carefully photographed each one of them to ultimately create an exhibition in an outdoor and indoor format.

Iwiens explains how she internalised the process: “[I had] to be totally honest with myself, I needed to capture them all. No book, no piece of clothing, no kitchen utensil, no Lego was going to escape my lens.” The significance of personal belongings differs for each and every one of us in the chaotic order we live in. Some of us refuse to be attached to inanimate objects and focus on the flow, change and regular novelty, while others associate objects with memories and lade them with a strange sense of nostalgia. For Barbara, creating the Katalog is about a quest for balance. It also helped her realise which objects are for keepsake and which are clutter.

She calls this period “voluntary confinement” and, after extensive research and reading, admits that her attachment to the majority of her personal belongings turned out to be a source confusion rather than pleasure. By photographing each object under natural light and in front of a grey background, she succeeds in detaching them from their own habitats, forcing her to discover their true meaning. About the outcome, “I hoped to say goodbye to many things, but ended up loving so much more of my belongings,” says the artist. In this age of consumption, Iwiens’ collection evokes plenty of thought. Scheduled to be exhibited during 2021, the artist’s Katalog is actually an account of all our lives.