10 minutes with Diana Zlatanovski

Interviews with Photographers November 28, 2012 7:33 am

Tell me about your series The Typology. What is it, when did you start it and where do you see it going?

The Typology is a photographic series of collections. As a museologist working with cultural artifacts for the past ten years, I have been immersed in the importance of collections on a daily basis. As a photographer I am compelled to portray the significance of object collections in my work. In addition to my own typology photography, I began curating photographic and object typologies that I discover out in the world as The Typologist about a year ago.

Objects are all that remain as a link between their time and ours. They hold meaning in people’s lives. It’s my hope that putting more of these collections and their biographies out in the world helps in fostering appreciation and support for the curation and preservation of both cultural and natural artifacts.

Shells belonging to a family of particularly predatory, carnivorous sea snails. Shooting a harpoon like “tooth” this snail injects a quick-acting poison to paralyze and kill its prey. Specimens collected in the Indo-Pacific, early to mid 20th century.
Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology malacology collection. Photography by Diana Zlatanovski.
© 2012 The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Diana Zlatanovski


How is your photography and your work as a curator connected?

Objects are wrapped in stories and meaning, as a curator you learn how to unravel those, to make objects speak. My photography of object collections is a way for these objects to tell their collective story. A tale of similarities and contrasts, sometimes vast sometimes subtle. By observing these collections of similar things, the beautiful variations in form, shape and color become evident and can be appreciated. The closer you look, the more you see.


1789- the first political button is worn by George Washington
1860-first photographic images on pins are seen during Abraham Lincoln’s campaign
1896-celluloid pins are first mass produced during William McKinley’s run for president
1916-modern lithographic printed pins appear – Diana Zlatanovski

Diana Zlatanovski


I love reading about the objects that you photograph. Do you determine what you will collect and photograph based on what an object looks like or your interest in the object?

I’m so happy to hear that, because the visual and the informative aspects are equally important to me. Often, I don’t need to think about it too much when selecting objects because a combination of the two is likely what made me notice the object to begin with. There is always an emotional response that brings me to selecting objects, it can be aesthetic, nostalgic, or any number of things. One thing that I do consider is that I can’t change appearances but I can always find something interesting about a group of objects. Sometimes it’s really evident, other times it takes more creativity and research. And I love that.


Once an essential component for every fashionable woman, cigarette holders are rarely seen in contemporary times. These holders were collected in Europe during the mid 20th century and the collection passed from mother to daughter. A portion of her larger collection is also now housed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston – Diana Zlatanovski

Diana Zlatanovski


Who were some of the first photographers that inspired you?

I’m most intrigued by early documentary photographers like Edward Curtis and August Sander, and more recently, Bernd and Hilla Becher. All four worked in a style I portray in my own work, a systematic documentation: of culture, people and structures, respectively.


The wrench typology is inspired by archaeologists typologies of prehistoric stone tools.
Ancestors of modern humans created the earliest tools by grinding or chipping stones.
Over two million years later, the first patent for a wrench was granted to Solymon Merrick in 1835.
A study in human ingenuity and evolution – Diana Zlatanovski

Diana Zlatanovski


If you could go back ten years and give yourself advice, what would it be?

Take more risks now, it’s harder to do it later.


(Diana is based in Boston. See more of her work, here)

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