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Life Once Removed is a whimsical yet thought-provoking portrait series by photographer and self-described spinster Suzanne Heintz that explores the societal expectancy of women to get married and start a family. The photographer places herself in front of the camera with a set of mannequins, posing as though they’re a nuclear, all-American family from a postcard or perhaps a 1950s sitcom.
Heintz originally embarked on this project because, she says, “I got really sick and tired of answering the question, ‘Why aren’t you married?’ over and over again. Like my life was behind schedule or there was something seriously wrong with me. Like I wasn’t living up to expectations.” Therefore, she intended to create her own husband and child. Throughout the series, Heintz wears her toothy smile as she goes sightseeing with her plastic family.
Ultimately, the series presents the unmarried creative with her faux family in manufactured poses, questioning the purpose of these indoctrinated rules and whether there’s truly a difference in her “family” pictures from others. She says, “We love & obey the formatted image of a well-lived life. So deeply ingrained is that strange auto-grin we put on when a camera is present. Do we live our lives with a keen awareness of how it feels, or just how it looks?”
In an interview with Feature Shoot, she also adds, “We are constantly set up by our expectations to feel as though we are missing something. In my case, it seems I was missing the family component, and was suspect for that gap in my resumé as a successful woman. I thought it was high time to call this nonsense out publicly, because this notion is not just about me, nor only about women in regards to marriage. It’s about anyone whose life doesn’t look the way it ‘should.’ I’m simply trying to get people to open up their minds and quit clinging to antiquated notions of what a successful life looks like. I want people to lighten up on each other and themselves, and embrace their lives for who it has made them, with or without the Mrs., PhD. or Esq. attached.”