Claire Yaffa: Thoughts of Photographers, Poets and Dreamers, Chapter 27

Claire Yaffa took her first photograph 45 years ago when her son was 18 months old and it was the beginning of her journey, first as a mother, then as a photographer. She has worked extensively for The New York Times and Associated Press. Her photographs have appeared in countless influential publications and have been exhibited at major venues in the US and around the world.

Objects in an antique shop, “The Den Of Antiquity” mirrored, for me, the human condition. It was founded in the early 1960s, by Elliott Shapiro. When he was 18 years old, he began collecting antiques for his mother who wanted to furnish their home in New Rochelle, New York .

Recently, I discovered The Den of Antiquity, in Mamaroneck, New York. Many years ago, Mr. Shapiro established four stores and multiple storage facilities. There are so many objects, it was difficult to pass through. I was overwhelmed by the quantity of things. I asked if I could photograph there. It was difficult for me to decide what it was I wanted to photograph. There were so many objects accumulated during someone’s life. For me, there was the wonder of it all and the question, “Why?”

Why do we gravitate to a possession? Why do we accumulate so many things? Why do we decide to take a photograph? What motivates us during our life to acquire and preserve objects that we treasure? The thoughts and questions for me were many. What happens to all of our things and the past which encompasses them?

The past was visible in the Den of Antiquity where statues mirrored the human condition and gave us a glimpse of the emotions felt by the person who created these works of art. By viewing some of the objects, perhaps we could imagine who would want to have these once treasured items. Who were the collectors? What motivated them to collect as an important part of their lives and helped to define who they were? The owners of all the items I saw, are now a memory and a reminder they once were here. What remains of them as we view their coveted possessions? Do we have an idea of who they were from the objects they collected? The Den of Antiquity perhaps may provide an answer.

You can also see more of Claire’s work on her website, www.claireyaffa.com.