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JANUARY 18, 2010

One True Thing
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What I keep

Theorizing which few items—a DVD, CD or book—you’d bring to a desert island is a fun game when it’s theoretical. But as shown in the compelling and affecting photo project What I keep, by Susan Mullally , when it’s real life—and it’s a life that is struggling with homelessness, addiction, mental illness or poverty—the one object that’s kept becomes something of much more profound significance.

Mullally collaborates with the Church Under the Bridge, which has been meeting under Interstate 35 in Waco, Texas, for 16 years, and asks members what he or she keeps and why it is valued. The stark portraits are worth a look, but the possessions are what’s really fascinating: One woman holds a 7Up bottle that was her great-grandmother’s; a recovering addict wears a watch and a ring that he found at the bottom of a dumpster; and a carpenter proudly displays a tattoo he got in prison at age 19, which resembles the wife he met 20 years later.

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