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Dan Younger


Objects in my father’s basement

In 1988 my father was dying of cancer. I started coming up to St. Louis on long weekends from my teaching job to be with them. After his retirement, my father had moved most of his life to the basement, where he established a kind of “office” in part of the basement that was meant to be a bar and expanded the area behind the bar which was now a workshop.

The basement became his place to live. Except for the time he ate and slept upstairs, the rest of the time he would spend in the basement. It had a TV, a bar and it had a collection of his models and memories from his years as a model maker and engineer for McDonald Douglas.

On one of my visits home I was sitting in the basement with my father and my mother came down, gestured at all of the stuff in both rooms and said “What are you going to do with all this once we’re gone?”. I joked that I was just going to glue it all in place and charge admission. But I knew that once my father was gone my mother’s sense of order and cleanliness would dictate that she would clean the place up, throw things away and it would not be the same after that.

So, I brought up a tripod and 4×5” studio camera, and started photographing details of that basement to remember it, and also to memorialize it. In the end, these pictures became known as “Objects in my Father’s Basement“. They became multiple gallery or museum exhibits and were reproduced in magazines, including the Chicago Tribune’s Father’s Day issue.

The good people at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago asked if they could have a set of these images for their collection. As it turns out, I am not a good curator of my own work and over multiple years and multiple moves, most of the vintage prints from this set were either destroyed or went missing. So, the only complete collection is now at the museum.

Coming across these images again in web sized form, I was reminded how much the basement and by extension my father had meant to me. Now I think of these images as not just documents of a place, but they are also a portrait of a loved one. My parents are both gone, and the house is not there any longer, but these are portraits of a time and a place when we were all together.

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