By Erin Berman, Photos by MH Rubin
All Things is an art book showcasing the wisdoms and experiences of 108 strangers. Their worlds are revealed, one story at a time, alongside dark and compelling photography. To order a book, click here.
Erin Berman is a writer and storyteller. Her work explores the juxtaposition between personal narrative and collective conscious.
MH Rubin is a San Francisco-based photographer. His photographs blur the boundary between documentary and the surreal.
I met Erin Berman at a party and we began to talk. One thing lead to another, as these things do, and she mentioned these 108 stories she had written over many years and eventually showed them to me. “I’m looking for an artist to help me illustrate them and perhaps create a book one day,” she said. As I read each story, something surreal dawned on me: I had a photo that fit. Every one.
I’ve been a photographer for all of my adult life, and I presently have perhaps 130,000 images I’ve taken—no consistent style or theme, just images from my private library, my travels, my family, my friends. A candid 2D slice through the volume of my experiences. While I never felt they were a cohesive body of work, as I read Erin’s stories I recognized
the synergy between our creations.
Over a somewhat frenetic period of collaboration, we were able to pair a single photograph from my archive with each story. No new work was shot to illustrate this book—whether the character was a cutter of paper, was riding on the ferry, was visiting Disneyland, was nervous about a date, I had a photo that inexplicably fit into place. In fact the hardest part was often pulling a photo that was too literal. In those cases Erin and I would talk about the character and identify alternative images that were more nuanced in their connection.
This project was unusual in that our creations were generated independently, from deeply personal places, but the juxtaposition created something wonderfully novel. It has been my distinct joy to develop this with Erin, to embrace the unique meanings created by the pairings, and to share these images with you.