Exhibition Statement

What Is Left Behind — Stories from Estate Sales


For over a year I went to several hundred estate sales in Dallas, Texas, where I live. In many parts of the US, people use estate sales to dispose of their parents’ possessions after they die or move to assisted living facilities. In addition to photographing at the sales themselves, I also bought many inexpensive items that I studied later with better lighting and backgrounds in my home studio. 

Several themes have emerged from this work. The stark reality of life’s brevity pervades every estate sale, where children’s toys sit next to wheelchairs. Unique personal possessions tell the often poignant stories of people I never knew and could only wonder about. I also discovered knickknacks that offer fascinating commentaries on the culture and politics of the mid-twentieth century. Every weekend at just about every sale, I saw sadness, irony, history, and humor. 

The objects at these sales will find a rebirth of sorts in the homes of their new owners, but also hopefully in these photographs. On a personal note, visiting so many estate sales connected me to my past. I thought of the treasured belongings my parents left for my sister and me. My own mortality came into sharper focus. And I could not help but wonder what my estate sale will look like. 

- Norm Diamond