As the mother of a 3-year-old son, I've learned to religiously check every pocket before tossing his clothes into the wash, lest I send everything from rubber bands to rocks through the spin cycle. San Francisco photographer Melissa Kaseman has elevated this habit to an art form in her Preschool Pocket Treasures photo series by immortalizing the curious array of objects she rescues from her son Calder's pockets each day when he returns home from preschool. The results are whimsical, full of wonder, and wildly evocative of the way childhood is beautifully frenetic.
Kaseman opened up via email to Bustle about her inspiration for the series, saying, "I've always been interested in photography's capacity to suspend and document moments of transition and change. The magic of childhood is so fleeting, and these objects I kept finding in Calder's pockets represent a chapter of boyhood, his imagination, and the magic of a finding a 'treasure.'" She continues, "I like the idea of the photographs being a taxonomy report of a child's imagination, specifically Calder's. When I started finding these objects it made me see there is a lot of me in him. I hope he carries the wonderment of discovery throughout his life."
It's a lovely thought — that the bits and baubles our children choose to carry with them in some ways are also pieces of us. It makes me want to archive the things my son, Bowen, chooses to carry, too. What do the things he gravitates toward say about the way he sees the world? Hidden in the dirt and debris, will I see hints of me or my husband? For Kaseman, the series is a study in discovery for Calder and, in finding these treasures, her as well. Even when the findings are seemingly inexplicable, like "a thumb tack, a golf tee, his teacher Susie's necklace," she says, rattling off some of his quirkier scores.
Although Preschool Pocket Treasures is clearly inspired by (and the result of) Calder's explorative little soul, Kaseman explains that the premise for such a photo series actually came from her mother. "The seeds were planted when my mother passed away, and I discovered all of the pockets of her jackets had items in them," she tells Bustle. "I kept them and put them in Ziploc bags with the intention of photographing them. However, I still haven't done that."
As for her own pockets, Kaseman admits she doesn't store quite the colorful array Calder is known to collect, nor, perhaps, the eclectic apothecary her mother carted around in her pockets. However, her pockets are generally filled with a singular object that does say a lot about how she sees the world. "My phone," Kaseman confesses, "since I'm always taking photos and lugging around my big cameras isn't very plausible with the kiddos."
Head over to Kaseman's website to see the many "treasures" she's gleaned from her son's pockets — including her favorite, pictured below.
Images: Courtesy of Melissa Kaseman