A resource investigating approaches to photographing objects of significance – from family treasures to precious mementos.

Part of England’s New Lenses


These resources created by artists Annis Joslin and Alejandra Carles-Tolra are designed to help students think about ways of photographing precious objects.

An object that has a special significance and is treasured or handed down through a family across generations is known as an heirloom. This could be an item of value like jewelry or a painting but it can also be a memento such as a letter or photograph. Anything that is important to someone could become an heirloom, even a stone.

  • What are the everyday things you use, wear or play with that will define your generation in the future?
  • Has anything been left to you?
  • Are there treasures in your family home? Pots, recipes, hats, books? 
  • What do you always carry with you?
  • What story does it tell?
  • Imagine you had to leave your house never to return and had only two minutes to do it. Which five objects would you take?
  • Have you got treasured objects from family or friends that you often find yourself looking at?
Your Object, Your Story

Make a photographic still life using the treasured objects that represent you.

Interact With Your Objects

Put yourself in the frame. Interact with your treasured objects. Take a photo!

Make a Sculpture of Objects to Photograph

Turn your objects into a sculpture, balance it, photograph it!

Home heirlooms

Take your camera on a walk through your home and capture readymade compositions of potential heirloom objects.

Top Tips
  • Spend time selecting your objects of significance
  • Be playful and experiment
  • Try out different ideas and poses
  • Pay attention to background, lighting and composition
  • Set up unusual compositions
  • Decide what’s in and what’s outside the frame.
  • Make use of natural light and shadow. Or add more light using torches or lamps.
Inspiring Artists
English Heritage Sites

Apsley House

London home of the Duke of Wellington. In 1838 the Duke of Wellington made provision for his exceptional works of art to be treated as heirlooms. 

Walmer Castle

Official residence of the Duke of Wellington, inventor of wellington boots, treasured by Wellington himself.

Audley End House

43 year old cook Ava Crocombe had a treasured, handwritten recipe book that was passed down through generations of cooks at this stately home.

About the Contributors

Annis Joslin’s practice seeks to explore lived experience through a participatory and reflective process. Working in diverse contexts she uses different approaches to generate material, including drawing, animation, photography, video and story-telling to create lens-based digital artwork for galleries, museums, community situations and online.

Her work has exhibited and screened internationally with commissions and projects with organisations including People United, Photoworks, The British Museum, Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, The Royal College of Physicians, The National Trust, The Women’s Library, Project Art Works and The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Annis is also co-director of Corridor, a social arts organisation that connects artists, people and places through collaborative lens-based visual arts projects.

Alejandra Carles-Tolra is a visual artist and photography facilitator from Barcelona, currently based in London, UK.

She received a BA in Sociology from the University of Barcelona and a Photography MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Alejandra’s work has been published and exhibited internationally, most recently at Vice, The Huffington Post, Gup Magazine, World Photography Organization, The Independent, Circulation(s) Festival in Paris, and Getty Images Gallery in London. She has taught photography at The University of New Hampshire and Massachusetts College of Art and Design, among other institutions. Alejandra currently collaborates with non-profit organizations as an art workshop facilitator using art and education to empower vulnerable communities.

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