Most readers know or at least have heard of plumb bobs as a kind of weight at the end of a string. That’s exactly how much I knew about them until I met Dr. Doğan Başak in Istanbul this past October. The waiting area of his medical office looked like a museum, and in Plexiglas cases hung hundreds of plumb bobs of many shapes and sizes along with other related measurement instruments. They all looked quite interesting, but some were like pieces of art, crafted to show off the skills of the artisan making it rather than a utilitarian tool we all think of. Some looked perfectly functional, yet others offered almost meditative qualities.
I asked for his permission to photograph them, and in about 10 minutes I photographed as much of the collection as I could. My interest was primarily photographic, and I took frames that had qualities that I liked. Since the collection was presented in an office environment, other objects in the background forced me to cut off some of the frames at unusual places. This might have left an important part of the display out.
As I sat down to write this post, I realized I had nothing to say about the elements in the collection other than my interaction with them. I did some research online and discovered that there are many collectors of plumb bobs, a few sites dedicated to them, and some remarkably interesting documents. During my research, I stumbled on a site, International Plumb Bob Collectors with a wealth of information. I dug in and tried to learn a little more about the lowly, utilitarian, or gorgeous collectible plumb bobs. After reading many pages, a collection of writings in a PDF publication Plumb Line Continuum and looking at many photographs I decided to write to the site owner Wolfgang Ruecker. In the meantime, I have learned of the editor who continued publishing the Plumb Line Continuum, Nelson Denny and later, I read about his passing in 2012. A ten-minute photo opportunity made me learn about an obscure hobby and some of its adherents in very unexpected ways. Live and learn!
This morning, I got a reply from Wolfgang who knew Doğan as a fellow collector, and told me in his message that they had the first meeting and exhibit of the association in Istanbul. Small world! When I sat down to write this post, I wanted to include some information about the plumb bobs, but I am going to leave that to the experts. I will simply share my photographs and several links and documents with the permission of Wolfgang Ruecker. I want to leave with one final thought about plumb bobs:
All plumb bobs on earth point to the same spot!
For more information:
Visit the International Plumb Bob Collectors web site.
Read the brief report of the Istanbul meeting in 2006
Read Wolf’s 20 frequently asked questions and answers about plumb bobs
Download and read the Plumb Line Continuum (click on the second link on the page for the full document)
Thank you Doğan bey for allowing me to photograph your collection, thank you, Wolfgang, for providing a wealth of information on plumb bobs. And now, enjoy the photographs of Doğan Başak collection, quite possibly a part of a larger collection.