The House Is on Fire—What Do You Take With You?

by Heather Summerville (Brooklyn)

Delaware artist Laura Pritchett would grab paintbrushes, rain boots, an ax and an iPhone, among other things.

We’ve all pondered this conundrum at one point or another. And if you’re me, your mother would pose this question to you when she thought you cared too much about some material thing—like, say, a favorite sweater that was stolen and demolished by your younger sister. (It went something like, “Why are you so upset? Is that the sweater you want to be wearing if the house were on fire, Heather?”)

If emergency called, L.A.–based wedding photographer Leila Peterson would save these pretty things. (Spot our Perfect Chambray Ex-Boyfriend Shirt?)

Well, New York–based photographer Foster Huntington asks this very same question but with a much different aim. Beautiful in both concept and execution, his new Web-based photo project, The Burning House, features a daily photographic checklist of must-save items as documented by individuals from around the globe—from L.A. to the Sudan. In Huntington’s own words, “It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental.” And though most of the submissions take a heaping truckload of artistic license (I somehow doubt I’d rescue a replaceable fountain pen, as one woman put on her list), The Burning House is a fascinating look at different people and cultures—and what they hold dear. 

If her house were on fire, Jakarta photographer Yongki Hermawan would pack these things and zip away.