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The operculum in this series is the lid of a gastropod’s shell, a little trapdoor that seals the shell to protect and hide the creature when it is retracted. The operculum was a gift, given to me by a friend who found it on a beach. White, pebble-sized, it sat comfortably in the hollow of my hand, an unfamiliar and beautiful shell-like object. Neither of us knew what it was called, but a little investigation led to the discovery of its name and purpose. I was as captivated by this new word as I was by the object itself. I felt connected to a forgotten adventure of early childhood: the experience of the world opening up as it is named and understood.

The word operculum comes from the Latin for ‘lid’ or ‘covering’.

Names themselves are coverings, overlaid onto everything that we perceive or sense in the world. Once we have named something we feel we know what it is.

These photographs were made with a large format bellows camera, on 5 x 4 inch sheets of direct positive photographic paper. Each exposure created a one-off print of the object straight onto the paper. This one-to-one relationship between the object and its image felt similar to the relationship between the object and its name. Throwing the black cloth over my head I would enter the darkness to view the image inverted on the ground glass. As I let go of the names and meanings, each object appeared before me somehow more mysterious than its everydayness should allow.

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