Whose House? Leif’s house.

Quality over quantity

Leif Norman is a constructive collector, not a compulsive hoarder

In 1999, after obtaining a degree in chemistry from the University of Winnipeg, Leif Norman picked up his mother’s camera, a Canonette, and started shooting. 

“I decided to focus… and see where it goes,” he says.

Today, Norman works for or has been the principle photographer for Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Kids Fest, the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers, the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba, the Winnipeg Arts Council and many more.  

Norman’s vocational and personal vision is the same: to be useful and to curate.

His home expresses these principles, from the well-maintained wood of the Danish modern furniture in one room of his and partner Heather’s apartment, to the Edwardian touches in the adjoining area. The Scandinavian pieces not only look beautiful, but ones like the three drawer dresser transform into an office desk.  

His appreciation for de-acquisition – terminology for what happens to a work of art when a gallery decides it no longer belongs in their collection – clarifies his focus. I was in his home a year ago, and now he says, “Every single thing here is new.”

His painting collection reflects a focus on Winnipeg and one other genre.  

“I have a love for bad art,” says Norman, pointing a paint-by-numbers adaptation of da Vinci’s Last Supper.

“I’m not collecting bad art because I’m being mean. Corniness is endearing. It’s heartbreaking. It can’t be middle of the road bad. It has to be atrocious. I love it.”

Norman’s collector’s appetite for vintage items from our city is sated by matchbooks (4). He has four. He’s a connoisseur, not a kitschy collector or hoarder.  

“It comes down to time, money, and space,” Norman says. “Sure, I wish I could adopt all the puppies, but I collect matchbooks. Maybe, if I find one more, I’ll get it.”

Practicality is paramount with his professional choices as well.  

“I like the new technology of cameras, phones, and gear. Old if it’s good, new if it’s good. Things have to churn,” Norman says.

When it comes to older items, he has a cache of books, some of which are over two hundred years old. On a recent trip to Iceland he brought one book, John Draper’s Textbook on Chemistry from 1851.  

“These old chemistry and physics books, they are lucid in the way information was conveyed,” he says. “And they’re still ninety percent accurate.”

Published in Volume 68, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 20, 2013)

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