Going Out

THE COLLECTOR: Inside the home — and mind — of photographer Jonathan Hobin

Baseball cards. Butterflies in shadow boxes. Vintage couture. What is it about collections? What is it about collectors that their collecting becomes such habit? Such necessity. Such compulsion. Dare I say obsession? This four-part photo essay on collectors originally appeared in Ottawa Magazine’s 2013 Interiors edition. To see all the photography, order your copy here.

Writing by Cindy Deachman / Photography by Rémi Thériault 

Jonathan Hobin was photographed by Rémi Thériault.

Something can always be used — and often is — from this collection, and anything goes.

Need an American flag? Jonathan Hobin has sewn one. Need a change purse made from a frog, its mouth acting as the clasp? Hobin has bought one.

For Hobin finds castoffs and makes props both for his photography — he’s best known for his unnerving staged sets with children — and for set dressing.

Here, the pope wears a homemade crown of thorns as — more blasphemy — a necklace. Hobin, looking for all the world like a strict preacher, holds a Bible (again crafted in-house) — his take on a Louis Vuitton. (Did they really put out such an item?) A framed piece hanging behind him was given to him by a little girl — a congratulations card for an art opening of Hobin’s.




Hobin’s hearth — the juxtaposition of pristine and sanguine makes a lugubrious tableau. A folded-page 1965 handbook-as-sculpture uses the following sentence to guide writers: “For example, in the strip-mines of Southeastern Ohio, the blaster has one of the best-paying jobs.” One of the many minutiae found in this wealth.


A dining room display. The centrepiece? An old high school project — this ceramic bust is purposely missing its head.


All in a morning’s work looking through family photo albums from past travels and cruises. Grapefruit is a favourite of Hobin’s, offered here on a whimsical little starburst plate. Second-hand find: that’s his great-great-grandmother, cocky in her blowsy white hat. Preservation of his grandmother’s dentures reveals Hobin’s sense of humour — and tenderness.
A true Hobin pleasure: arranging all the wonders he has accrued. He also enjoys mixing and matching “vintage pieces with cheap finds, the high and the low.” Two skeletons here. The mouse under the bell jar was discovered in the basement. And the scary-looking jaw? A shark! (“Sometimes the imagined history is better than the real.”) The bouquet of dried roses and hydrangeas completes a thoroughly Victorian picture.
Isn’t Woody Allen the only one still using a typewriter nowadays? And if you can believe it, this 100-year-old wrought-iron scale (1888) was being thrown out. Understandable, though — how would one put it to use? But as Hobin admits, “I can’t let this weird stuff go into the garbage.” Presiding over all, with eyes closed, is Hobin’s beloved grandmother — the day before she died. Hobin happened to be trying out a new camera.