’42 Necklaces’ A Photographic Typology

42 images of 42 different necklaces varying in length, materials, design and value. Image by Maria Shaw
’42 Necklaces’ by Maria Shaw

What is a typology?

A typology is a collection of similar items where the collection is more important than the individual components. The collection simultaneously enables both the individual components and the whole collection to be compared. Interestingly the comparison generates questions and serious reflection because it triggers awareness and creates entry into previously hidden patterns and meaning (Infinite Dictionary 2015.1).


My typology 42 Necklaces was inspired by Ruscha’s (1963) Twentysix Gasoline Stations and Bauman’s (2021) 100 Abandoned Houses. I was attracted to the scale of their images and the disrupted narratives (Frank as cited in Marino 2004:65) that creates coherence from the mass groupings of ‘similar’ images (Marino 2004:65). Like Ruscha, I ‘blindly’ performed (Costello and Inversen 2009:826) or used constraints to create my typology. I systematically photographed the images: against the same wall, at roughly the same time of day, on the same necklace stand. I used only necklaces that belonged to me.

Image of pearl and rose quartz necklace on necklace stand. Image by Maria Shaw.
Pearl and rose quartz necklace Image by Maria Shaw

Hierarchy and light

In addition, to maintain a lack of hierarchy among the images they are arranged by the shortest to the longest length of necklace, from left to right. No image has more status than its neighbour. Further, instead of including the same border around each separate image, I chose to frame each image by harnessing the changes in the natural light on the wall. The subtle changes in light on the wall behind the necklaces strengthens the democracy of the images and yet provides scope for the image to retain its integrity and uniqueness from and similarity to its neighbours.

Image of Arabic coin necklace on necklace stand. Image by Maria Shaw
Arabic coin necklace – Image by Maria Shaw

Necklace as signifier

Stokes (2007:107) notes the value in using constraints as it generates novel responses that potentially change the way others see the world (Boden 1994, Csikszentmihalyi 1996, Simonton 2004 and Stokes 2005, as cited in Stokes 2007). 42 Necklaces demonstrates this concept as the typology provides a fresh exploration of necklaces. The typology reveals that a necklace is a signifier – a material thing (Saussure as cited in Bate 2009:33). It must be a minimum size to fit around a neck, is designed to be hung and adorn the wearer and can be made from a variety of materials. It can be a simple or elaborate design. It may be plain or coloured and or made of inexpensive or precious materials. A necklace also signifies the wearer’s affiliations and or interests, wealth, status and style.

Image of turquoise and moonstone necklace  on necklace stand. Image by Maria Shaw
Turquoise and moonstone necklace Image by Maria Shaw

Primal need to adorn

Most interesting and genuinely surprising to myself and viewers’ expectations, has been the viewers’ response to the typology. Viewers have reported deeply reflecting on their personal relationship with their necklaces in terms of the amount, types and styles of necklaces they own, the circumstances of their ownership and the occasions that are prompts to adorn themselves with a necklace. Perhaps the typology has tapped into a primal behaviour or function to adorn and or identify with and or differentiate the individual from a group?

Image of beaded Tuttle motif Mi'kmaq necklace on necklace stand. Image by Maria Shaw
Beaded Tuttle motif Mi’kmaq necklace Image Maria Shaw

Annotated Bibliography
Bate D (2009) Photography: The key concepts, Bloomsbury Publishing.
This book includes a useful chapter that provides an overview on the necessity of theory to
photographic practice. It provides clear definitions of key semiotics terms including signifier and signified that are central in understanding and describing the impact my typology has on its viewers.

Bauman K (2021) 100 Abandoned Houses, [photographs], Kevin Bauman, accessed 29 May 2021.
Bauman’s typology is comprised of 100 coloured images of 100 different abandoned houses in Detroit, USA. His work is relevant to my practice as he is a contemporary conceptual artist, and his typology provides an example of and information on the impact of a large-scale typology. His work inspired me to scale up my typology and consider the typological constraints used including how to photograph and frame the images I used.

Costello D and Iversen M (2009) ‘Introduction- photography after conceptual art’, Art History, 32(5):825-35, doi:10.1111/j.1467-8365.2009.00706.x
This journal article provides useful additional detail about Ruscha’s use of constraints in creating the typology Twentysix Gasoline Stations. It also provides a helpful summary of other critics’ analysis and response to Ruscha’s approach and work. This reference informed my practice and lent authority to my use of similar constraints in creating a typology that explores the signified.

Infinite Dictionary (2015) ‘Design a beginner’s handbook: Photographic typologies‘, Infinite Dictionary, accessed 26 May 2022.
This blog provides an overview of artistic typographies and provides a range of well known artistic typographies and profiles the artists who created them. The reference usefully provides an easily understood entry point into typographies.

Marino M (2004), ‘Almost not photography’, in Corris M (ed) Conceptual art: theory, myth, and practice, Michael Corris, Cambridge University Press, New York.
This chapter provides a specific account of Ruscha’s typologies and explanation of how they fit with the work of his artistic contemporaries at the time of their creation. The chapter includes direct quotes from artists on the impact of Ruscha’s typologies on them. The reference is valuable in its clarification of Ruscha’s approach in creating typologies. It enabled me to better articulate the choices I made in creating 42 Necklaces.

Ruscha E (1963) Twentysix Gasoline Stations, [Art book], Tate Modern online, accessed 29 May 2021.
Ruscha’s artbook Twentysix Gasoline Stations is a key reference in developing an understanding of typology. As one of the earliest leading conceptual typologists, Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations demonstrates the experimental nature of the use of constraints in creating a typology and the usefulness in using constraints to create an impact. Like Bauman the scale of the images Ruscha used in Twentysix Gasoline Stations provided me with permission to photograph many images to create my typology. In addition, his artbook also provides a historical record and example of how the images he made in the 1960’s may maintain value by continuing to engage with new viewers over time.

Stokes P (2007), ‘Using constraints to generate and sustain novelty’, Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 1(2):107-113, doi:10.1037/1931-3896.1.2.107
This journal article scientifically validates the use of constraints in generating innovative responses to ill defined problems. The ‘constraint model of novelty’ referenced is clearly explained and shows its application is empirically valid in the creation of typologies. This reference provides an engaging further validation from an alternate discipline on the benefits of use of constraints to artistically explore areas of interest and strengthened my use of constraints in creating a typology.

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