The Burning House Project

Hannah Queen, 20, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Photographer

What would you take with you if your house was on fire? It's a classic question but have you really thought through the answer?

This is the exact premise of Robert Holden's intriguing project, titled The Burning House. “It's a conflict between what's practical, valuable, and sentimental,” he says. “What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question.”

What's most fascinating about the series is the noticeable and extreme differences. While some would take weapons like guns or knives, others find that their most valuable belongings include books, cameras, or basketballs.

Hannah's List (above):
– Basket of family photos, old and new
– Macbook
– iPhone
– Wallet
– Cast iron skillet
– Leather bracelet with mustard seed charm, which was my grandmothers
– Leather bracelet, a gift from my mom
– L'Occitane Lavender Hand Cream
– L'Oreal Voluminous Million Lashes
– Lancome Teint Idole Ultra
– Letters & postcards from friends
– Favorite tea towel, which was a gift
– The complete works of Jane Austen
– Blue ball jar, filled with river rocks. Souvenirs from a perfect day.
– Minnetonka moccasins
– Favorite wooden spoon
– Two forks from old family silverware
– Twig spoon, a gift from a friend
– Not pictured, Canon 5d Mark II

Chris Adamiak, 30, Milton, Ontario Canada, Maintenance Worker

Chris' List:
– My cats: Indy (left) and Scout
– My late 50's Red Wing work boots (size 13 is hard to come by!)
– My paddle that's been on almost a decade of canoe trips
– Engraved Zippo from my wife
– Custom James Mcgowan knife: I designed, he made into life
– Cyma Navystar watch from my Pop
– My wallet and contents
– WWII U.S. Bayonet from my Late Uncle
– 1940's Shell bag
– My first edition “Song of the Paddle” signed by the late Bill Mason
– 1TB hard drive with 13 years of music and pictures on it

David Coggins, New York, Writer

David's List:
– Great Gatsby (1st Ed.)
– 2 good pens
– Bottle opener
– Watch
– Cigar holder
– Flask
– Favorite English suit
– Cleverley brogues
– Olch tie
– Antique casino chip
– Plastic cowboy
– Smythson calendar
– Calling card
– (Rugs not included)

Frances Shelley, 25, Austin, TX, Project Assistant

Frances' List:
– Fancy helmet (because I just bought it) and Bridgestone RB-3, not pictured
– Keys
– Canon Rebel G + Canon 50mm f/1.4: Camera setup I learned to shoot on
– Wallet: Poketo Arcade Fire Neon Bible limited edition
– GoLite Jam Pack: to carry all this stuff with!
– Library of diaries, started writing when I was 12
– Kindle: to replace all books
– Polaroids and Instax photos: irreplaceable
– “11” Macbook Air: the only computer I'll ever need
– Snorri and Boyd (cats), not pictured

James Oliver Lamont Fox, 40, Somerville, MA, IT, and Library School Student

James' List:
– Growing collection of old-timey Vermont pennants.
– Ede & Ravenscroft brogues. Bought them for our wedding.
– Levi's Troy lined jacket. Thrifted for $2.50 a long time ago.
– Box of cufflinks incl. grandpa's mother of pearl jobs and JOLF monogrammed silver ones (39 y/o present from godfather).
– My kilt, Lamont. Only MTM thing I own.
– External hard drive of photos.

Jeff Staple, 36, An Airport Lounge Near You, Self-Employed.

Jeff's List:
– Stpl “Gondry” Hooded Technical Jacket. Taped Seams. Completely Waterproof.
– Acronym Softshell Hooded Jacket. The perfect insulator piece. When the world ends, you will want Acronym on your side.
– Mountain Research Long Sleeve tee. The key to temperature management is proper layering.
– Staple x Kangol “Pigeon” Suncap. The fabric has built-in UV protection.
– Staple x Oakley “Pigeon” Frogskins. Nobody protects your eyes better. Nobody.
– Waterproof Matches. Works even when they're drenched.
– SAS Pocket Survival Guide Book. Just in case you need to learn how to skin a deer.
– Swiss Army Knife: SwissChamp XLT
– Nike x Sophnet “Oasis”. Waterproof, Goretex, Breathable and super comfortable.
– Smartwool Socks (not pictured)
– TripShell International Adaptor. For whatever country I might wind up in.
– Eton Self-Powered Emergency Radio and Flashlight
– iPhone + Headphones (Protective case by Uncommon)
– Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets. Purifies water anywhere you can get it.
– Casio G-Shock x Qubic GA-100 Beacon Watch. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
– Staple Stern Chino pants. The best pants money can buy.
– US Passport in back pocket (not pictured)
– Haglfs Intensity Series Endurance 12L Backpack

Jennifer Maree Rouse, 23, Melbourne, Australia, Undiscovered

Jennifer's List:
– My cat amber *not shown
– Nikon FE2 – My first and favorite SLR
– My grandmother's Pentax ME Super
– Phone – music / contacts / emergency computer
– The negs stash
– Universal Waite tarot deck
– 5mm crochet hook
– Claddagn ring – The first piece of jewelery I bought myself.
– Giant solid brass key my brother gave me for my 21st birthday.
– Tardis earnings my partner made for me.
– The Chucks I lived in from 2005-2007, which is also the time period i spent with my best friend, Beth.

Laura Pritchett, 24, Southern Delaware, Artist

Laura's List:
– The unglamorous but practical galoshes that I wear most often
– A painting I am (almost) satisfied with
– An irreplaceable blouse which has no tag and I have no idea who made it, but love
– The wooden clothes hanger from my grandfather's closet
– The perfectly weathered belt I am rarely without
– Candid shot of grandfather and his car
– The last remnant of family plaid my grandmother brought back from Ireland
– Keys from my childhood scavenging
– 1957 edition of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook with my grandmother's and mother's recipe alterations handwritten in the margins
– The bit I trained two horses with
– Klein bag with my well broken in sable brushes
– The hatchet my great grandfather used to build his house
– The Ball jar that I keep all of my flash drives in
– Family Bible
– Moleskine journal I kept while traveling in Uganda
– First fabric sample produced by with my design for Ugandan tailors
– iPhone

Louie McPherson, Haderslev, Denmark, Graphic Design Student

Louie's List:
– My Curious George teddy.
– Han shirt, good with everything.
– Grado headphones. Vital part of my life!
– Fantastic Man, so I have something to read.
– Beach Boys Greatest lp, so i have something good to listen to, and cheer my up now that everything has burned.
– Weekday sunglasses since I'm now homeless.
– Pencil case so I can practice my drawing.
– Sandqvist bag! Essential to have a bag when you don't have a home.
– MacBook Pro. Can't live without it. Literally.
– Casio watch, waterproof so I can tell the time even when it rains.

Melissa Howard, 37, New York, Stock – Vintage Menswear Store

Melissa's List:
– 1930's Spalding Shawl Collar Sweater
– 1920's JC Penny Leather Jacket
– 1940's Chippewa Engineer Boots
– 1940's LL Bean Duffle Bag
– 1950's Rolex Oyster Army Watch
– Credit Card Case
– Faded Blue Bandanas
– Early Carhartt Bandanas
– Early Leather Jacket & Overall Salesman Samples
– Early Beaver State Pendleton Blanket
– Early Carved African American Mechanical Toy
– 1906 Hickory Cane with Carved Handle
– Luna my 12 year old Yorkshire Terrier (not pictured)

Michael Mundy, Manhattan, New York, Photographer

Michael's List:
– Billingham bag with Nikons
– Brooks Bros White Oxford ( my go anywhere shirt)
– Tripod
– Cigar box with personal memorabilia
– My old pea coat (about 15 years old)
– Horns From African safaris
– Hemingway
– JP Donleavy
– Borges
– Space Pen
– My old Minox camera (took some of my favorite photos with it)
– 23 year old Merrell boots
– Sculpture my sister made in grade school
– My pocket knife
– Gift from a great friend (see no evil, speak no evil etc.)
– A few of my vintage bandannas

Mikael Kennedy, 31, Brooklyn, NY, Photographer

Mikael's List:
– Large Olive Green Filson Duffel
– 6 boxes of my Polaroids (I only could fit 6 out of the 18 that are full, priorities include, edit for next show & Passport to Trespass book edits)
– Workbook from ‘The Odysseus' photo series
– St. Christopher Necklace given to me by an old friend when he was done traveling and had settled down
– Grandfathers Timex (still broken)
– Small tin of dirt from the Santuario De Chimayo in Chimayo, NM
– Black Polaroid SX70 Special Edition
– Custom Polaroid case from Strawfoot Handmade
– Two bricks of the last Polaroid 779 batches ever made (Expiration Date 09)
– Wallet
– Keys to my Chevy
– Harddrive with latest backup from computer
– iPhone
– First edition of Johnny Dark's ‘People I may know' published by Little Bear Press

Porter Hovey, Brooklyn, New York, Photographer

Porter's List:
– Canon 40D – my bread and butter and how I've been expressing myself for years.
– Parents' wedding photos – not only an inspiration about love but also style.
– Polaroids – Years, hundreds of dollars, and hours of time … not letting these babies melt down. Most of them are from my Polaroid Project and are taken around Brooklyn and during my travels. It's literally flipping through years of memories.
– Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera – My sister Hollister bought this for me as a Christmas present – aesthetics really meet function with this one. It's leather!
– Tennis player figurines – Hol and I stumbled upon the most amazing miniature store while in Paris. It was my major purchase on that trip.
– Photo booth photos – Hours of time spent laughing, drinking, and being silly. The top photo is of my friend Rasmus Nybo who died from cancer a couple years ago. The other single photo booth pic is of our mom and grandma – both who have died. Always a reminder to live it up while you can. Passport – the best way to escape from life and learn new things is to travel.
– Claes Oldenberg shuttlecock Christmas ornament – A nice reminder of where I'm from – people never realize how cosmopolitan Kansas City really is. From an aerial view, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art looks like a gigantic badminton court with gigantic shuttlecocks scattered about on the lawn. The Nelson also has one of the best collections photography there is in the world. It always inspires me.

Rohan L Anderson, 35, Ballarat, Australia, Photography & Design

Rohan's List:
– Nixon Chrono Dive Watch
– Japanese bone handle knife (had it for 22 years)
– Led Lenser torch
– iPhone
– Nikon 50mm f/1.4
– 500gig Time Machine Back Up
– Macbook
– My glasses. Can't see without em so may as well gram em! (yes they have real lenses in them)
– One of my Nikons.
– CZ 22 Magnum. It's my favourite hunting tool.
– Barbor International
– G-Star Raw circa 2004? Love these guys. I haven't bought G-Star since. I'm happy just to keep these as the best pair of jeans I've ever owned.

Stephanie Huntington, 50, Underwood, WA, Jill of All Trades

Stephanie's List:
– 2 favorite Calphalon Stainless Steel Pans- one sauce pan and one deep frying pan
– Japanese bamboo basket in my possession 15 years
– Mini Japanese tool box with family letters and children's pictures
– Opal necklace, a present from Steve
– Collection of 5 sall round rocks ( couldn't carry the big ones)
– Buck Knife
– Wallet
– Favorite red shirt, marimekko farmer's shirt
– Mr. Fuzzy, an alpaca blanket
– Lucy, not pictured Irish Terrier

Tucker Gorman, 23, Maine, Aspiring Industrial Designer

Tucker's List:
– Lifelong teddy bear Chewy (Chewbacca)
– Journal/sketchbook from spring of 2009 in Denmark
– Norse Projects 5-panel hat
– Larry Bird autographed basketball
– Citizen Eco Drive Watch
– Leatherman Freestyle Tool
– Phone charger
– Mac Book Proa
– HTC Droid Incredible
– LL Bean zip-up tote

What would you take?

The Burning House website
via [Neatorama]

Eugene Kim

Eugene Kim is the Editor-in-Chief of My Modern Met. In May, 2008, he co-founded the website to create one big city that celebrates creative ideas. His mission is to promote a positive culture by spotlighting the best sides of humanity—from the lighthearted and fun to the thought-provoking and enlightening.
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