Chocolate Press, William W. DuBois.
Collecting has always been a personal adventure. As an impulse buyer, it didn't take much convincing for me to invest 50 cents in a dark blue, white speckled, enameled bedpan found in an antique store. The fact it had a hole in its worn surface made it even more attractive in the abstract to me. I was enamored by the particular bedpan's used "object-ness" or perhaps better said, how its organic form and function were perfectly attuned. I took my new acquisition and turned it into a planter, hanging it from my office wall. But it wasn't just me who coveted the bedpan turned planter. Within weeks of moving it to a reception area adjacent to my office, the bedpan, with its lush Pothos foliage, was stolen.
My collecting of bedpans began in earnest with the loss of that first acquisition in 1978. Over the years, I have amassed sixty-five antique and contemporary bedpans of varying sizes (adult and child models); both male and female urinals; hospital specimen bottles (including a matching set of twelve repurposed to serve orange juice to house guests at breakfast); and, of course, an enema vessel with hose attached. While drawn to the sculptural quality of these receptacles, the varying materials used in their fabrication, such as metal, enamel, glass and ceramic, also proved visually and tactilely captivating. With each purchase, I was acquiring a little piece of medical and human history, in imaginative forms both practical and elegant in design; an object perfect for photographic description and contemplation.
The large format images exhibited here constitute a collection illuminating and commenting upon another collection. For me, one of photography's greatest attributes has long been its capacity to create a universal collection or encyclopedia of all things, both familiar and unknown. The ability to record, inventory and name gave the medium and those who used it and saw it unprecedented influence in shaping human knowledge and experience. In my work, I look to combine an interpretation of the purposeful essence of the bedpan with the essence of the finely rendered and crafted photographed object. In this way, the displayed photographs, like the bedpans they abstractly represent, convey the personal and cultural significance of collecting, with its motivations of pleasure, ownership, knowledge, memory and preservation.
William W. DuBois
Rochester, New York