Photo Essay: What Would You Save From a House Fire?


“If your house was burning, what would you bring with you?” asks growing online interview project The Burning House, which gleans submissions from around the world. The result: a series of revealing, neatly arranged still lives of personal belongings and intimate, detailed lists, torn between the “practical, valuable and sentimental.” There are writers brandishing their beloved first editions and designers showing off their shotguns. There are odd, totemic trinkets and tins of dirt. But what seems to link most of these interviewees are gadgets they “can’t live without” that will replace all their books and hold all their memories. Take a look at some of our favorites.

Chris Adamiak, 30. Milton, Ontario. Maintenance worker

Among the items: • A World War II bayonet from his late uncle • A hard drive with 13 years of music and pictures on it • A first edition of Song of the Paddle signed by the late Bill Mason

Michael Mundy, New York City. Photographer

Among the items: • A sculpture his sister made in grade school • Horns from African safaris • “Hemingway”

Frances Shelley, 25. Austin, TX. Project assistant

Among the items: • Canon Rebel G + Canon 50mm f/1.4: The camera setup she learned to shoot on • Her library of diaries, which she started writing when she was 12 • A Kindle, “to replace all books”

Porter Hovey, Brooklyn, New York. Photographer

Among the items: • A Canon 40D — “my bread and butter and how I’ve been expressing myself for years” • Parents’ wedding photos • Tennis player figurines

Mikael Kennedy, 31. Brooklyn, New York. Photographer

Among the items: • Six boxes of Polaroids • Small tin of dirt from the Santuario De Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico

Louie McPherson, Haderslev, Denmark. Graphic design student

Among the items: • A Curious George doll • A MacBook Pro – “Can’t live without it. Literally.”

David Coggins, New York City. Writer

Among the items: • A first edition of The Great Gatsby • Two “good” pens

Rohan L. Anderson, 35. Ballarat, Australia. Photographer/Designer

Among the items: • A Nixon Chrono Dive Watch • Japanese bone handle knife • iPhone

Tucker Gorman, 23. Maine. Aspiring industrial designer

Among the items: • Lifelong teddy bear Chewy (Chewbacca) • Journal/sketchbook from spring of 2009 in Denmark • Larry Bird autographed basketball

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

Among the items: • 1906 hickory cane with carved handle • Early carved African American mechanical toy