Read an extract of Rooms by Jane Ussher and John Walsh on Kete


Kete has published an extract of Rooms: Portraits of remarkable New Zealand interiors by Jane Ussher and John Walsh:

‘The things in a room, as Jane Ussher shows in this book, are the means by which a space is claimed by its inhabitants. The rooms Ussher photographs are manifestations of taste, at the very least, but often they seem more like exercises in self-definition. In her interiors portraits, we don’t just see the things that people like to surround themselves with — furniture and fabrics, paintings and prints, books and ceramics, sculptures and curios, lights and mirrors — but we get the bigger picture of how they choose to present themselves. Each room is a story, one that the inhabitants tell both to themselves and to the visitors they admit to their private domain.

To look at Ussher’s room portraits is to get drawn into a metaphysical guessing game: how much about people is revealed by photographs of their spaces without them? Walter Benjamin was on the case of the tell-tale interior early on. Writing in the 1930s about Paris in the mid-nineteenth century, Benjamin described one type of domestic environment, the bourgeois apartment, as ‘a sort of cockpit’ in which “the traces of its inhabitants are moulded into the interior”. This, thought Benjamin, “was the origin of the detective story, which inquires into and follows those traces”.’

Read the full review on Kete here.