Dale Niles: What Lies Within
“To enter Andrea Noel’s house is to step into another (studied, precise, yet entirely whimsical) dimension, one of endless possibility and connection… No material, not even a bent and rusty snippet of wire, is beneath her notice, as she knows that every object possesses the power to charm if it can only find others of its kind…To study these wonderful photographs is to open a door to someone else’s (in this case, two people’s) imagination. In What Lies Within, Dale conjures enchantments that mirror Andrea’s own.”—Alexa Dilworth, publishing director and senior editor at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
In some ways, I equate collecting with life. As I stated in my foreword to Dale Niles’ new book, What Lies Within: The Remarkable Collections of Andrea Noel, what I have come to discover about collecting is that the search is more exciting than the purchase and that the potential for discovery keeps me engaged, excited, and vigilant. I remember a quote from Martha Stewart where she stated that she has a stronger memory of the items at flea markets that she didn’t buy, than of the things she did.
Almost a decade ago, Niles was introduced to Andrea Noel and her uniquely extensive and personal collections of all manner of objects. For the last seven years, Niles has collaborated with Noel to revisit and re-see these vast compilations with humor and curiosity. The photographs she has created for What Lies Within: The Remarkable Collections of Andrea Noel, are not only the perfect creative cataloguing of Noel’s well-developed sensibilities, but Niles’ images take possession of the objects in a new telling through staged tableaux and conceptual portraiture, creating her own reinterpreted collection of a collection. The work reveals a child-like wonder of photographic offerings, like a tray of Christmas cookies, each with its own delights and flavor. Niles’ own photographic practice explores family histories through still life and constructed images, so this project was a natural expansion to her own personal curiosities.
Niles has just created a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to bring the book to fruition. The book will contain 150 full-color photographs printed with stochastic screening, a smyth-sewn book featuring a lay-flat binding with 7 foldout sections, wrapped in a fine weave linen cloth with foil stamping and blind debossing, with a limited edition will of 750. Please consider supporting this wonderful effort by purchasing a book and/or print HERE.
What Lies Within
Sometimes in life the world presents you with something unexpected, like a small gift that appears fully wrapped with a bow on top. Seven years ago, I entered the collector’s world of Andrea M. Noel after a friend suggested that I might be interested in photographing Andrea’s expansive collections. After approaching her about potential of examining her assortments photographically, I was presented with a list of over sixty collecting categories, ranging from kitchen utensils to bedpans and urinals. When I arrived at Andrea’s beautiful, home complete with a wraparound porch festooned with wisteria, I was unprepared for the surprises that lay within.
As Andrea states, “Collectors are born, not made.” The urge to collect is a strong instinct. Collections allow us to relive and preserve our childhood, revisit a memory, and keep the past living in our present. They also help ease our insecurities and anxieties from loss. This book is a photographic collection of things of little concern to most people, but the way they are meticulously cared for and put out for display gives them a new life, a new meaning, in the form of visual storytelling.
The items are a sundry of things that Andrea has spent years gathering from various locations including Paris, New York, Atlanta, and her small hometown in southern Georgia. This book is the result of our kindred spirits’ collaborative effort to illuminate the intrinsic beauty and value of these objects which have been artfully arranged, many with great whimsy and humor. She says that these items are a way for her to connect to people because they have been used and discarded, they have had a previous life, a history, and a story to tell. When I first began this project, I realized the items were different than what most collectors would seek to curate and that piqued my interest. The relationship between a collector and his or her treasures is a rich and fascinating place to dwell.
What began as a project documenting a series of collections, transformed into a photographic journey that reveals discarded objects beautifully arranged in artful designs. Andrea acts as playwright and director for these interactive scenes between her collections. I see some of the objects and think, “I remember my mother or my grandmother using that or having one of those.” And though the subject matter is not my own, the experience of working with these collections has been transformative, as I reframe the ordinary into the extraordinary. Her collections are an archive of what came before, reborn as an entertaining, ever-changing story.
Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Dale Niles’ formative years were spent with her family living in small, southern towns in Virginia and North Carolina. Inspired by the heritage of these locales, neighbors, and friends, she developed deep-seated southern roots that richly inform her photography practice with visual storytelling. Niles celebrates the diverseness of the human spirit, appreciating those qualities that make us delightfully unique, yet connected in many ways, particularly through shared experiences and preserved visual memories.
Niles majored in sociology at Lenoir Rhyne College in Hickory, North Carolina. While exploring opportunities in her chosen field, she pursued her artistic interests, ultimately discovering that photography was her passion. The medium offers Niles a wide berth of options for technique, subject matter, and her creative process.
Exhibitions include group and solo installations across the United States, Canada, Paris, France, and Venice, Italy. Her prints are held in many private collections and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA). A selection of her work is exhibited at Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida. She was selected for Photolucida’s Critical Mass Top 200 in 2018, Ones to Watch, the Fence, an exhibition at Hartsfield International Airport, and she won the Virginia Twinam Purchase Award. Featured publications include: Light and Shadow Magazine, SouthxSoutheast Magazine, Shots, Lenscratch, The HAND Magazine, and Oxford American.
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