ate Daum MRes. Anthropologsity College London

‘Inside out, outside in’


I was raised in a family where Mother always insisted that the house we lived in had never been inhabited by anyone else. On one occasion whilst leaving one home and waiting for the next to be completed, we rented an old large house. Mother wasn’t happy but I fell in love with it - the wooden floors and ornate staircase; the luxurious stained glass windows; the smells of wood and age. I enquired why she detested it and she said it was dirty despite scrubbing and polishing everything; that other people had lived in it; things had happened in this house. Knowing she did not believe in ghosts, what was this all about? I decided that the house itself had memories absorbed in its fabrics of wood and stone and tiles, and, because we were unlikely to know what these were and what they meant at the times of their happenings, this may have caused her fear and hence the dislike she felt for the place. And so I began to feel that whatever house I live in, whatever its age, the house is an animate construction in which it and myself share a relationship; that this is not something to be feared but understood.


Forty years later I am still trying to understand what it is about the place we call a house. It is of itself a piece of architecture, which provides shelter and space for the people who live in it, but this is only a fragment of what is involved. The anthropologist Suzanne Küchler has written of how thought, frequently abstract and linking with nature, may dwell in the surface of things. She argues: “It is this connectivity, essential to the art of describing, which has become of vital importance in capturing how things partake not just in thinking, but also in the shaping of knowledge” (Küchler 2005: 226). Of equal importance, therefore, is the intricate web of significance, the intimate conceptual, material and physical culture shared by the human body and the house; a culture that has both been created by us and creates us. It defines our world and our home is the initial viewing point from which this world is experienced.


Turn now to Rich Cameron’s photographs and see the plasticity caught in the net of his images. He re-shapes and re-forms the material culture of the house that has already been shaped and formed by others. There is a mutually constitutive relationship here between the materiality of this place and of those humans involved in its creation and re-creation. It is clear that fundamental materials within the landscape have made this house and the fragments portrayed are not only part of the whole structure, they are also whole and complete in themselves. The public exteriority of the house and its environs has been brought inside and helped create the private life of the house. What was once outside is now inside. In contrast, the internal constructs of mind and imagined memory now dwell together with and within the fabric of the house and have been made external. The blue and gold of several of the artifacts Cameron found reflect the beauty of the sea and sky that lie outside of the house. The ceramics and metals are more akin to the muted colours of the stones and woods that have constructed the house. In capturing the texture, smoothness, colour, pattern, and movement contained within both the fragments and the artifacts-as-memory, Cameron shows how they conjoin to form the inherent structural components of house/place. This we can both see and feel if only in our shared imaginations.



Küchler, S. 2005 “Materiality and cognition: the changing face of things" in Materiality (ed. Daniel Miller) London: Duke University Press.


Kate Daum, MRes. Anthropology, University College London