Roth's living room has minimalist furniture and tons of books and cameras on display. Credit: Andrea Bauer

David Roth’s Evanston home is full of links to the past: the old typewriter on which he composed a high school term paper, a defunct parking meter from Detroit (his hometown), his father’s bronzed baby shoes. The mantel is lined with archival photographs—one even includes his great-great-great-grandfather, the first in Roth’s family to immigrate from eastern Europe. “Stories end up getting mangled and changed, and you don’t quite know exactly what happened. But photos really capture things,” he says.

“I’ve always loved photography,” he continues as I peruse his extensive analog camera collection, which includes the first SLR he owned as a kid. “I love the aesthetics of old cameras—the materials and how they fit together, the sounds they make when you fire the shutter, the fact that these are things that were meant to be used by regular people to capture moments of their [lives].”

Roth is also a sculptor, crafting wall reliefs from found objects and wood. He has a small woodworking studio in his apartment, but given the tight quarters (and out of respect for the neighbors) he keeps his toolbox basic, using X-Acto knives or small saws instead of power tools. “I try to limit myself to processes that are relatively quiet and kind of gentle, ” he says. “It’s almost like medieval carpentry—if I lived in the Middle Ages, this is how I would build stuff.”

The living room is organized and spacious, with minimalist furniture, an eclectic record collection he’s been building since high school, work by friends such as local artists Dennis Callahan and Tony Fitzpatrick, and books about math and semiotics. “I surround myself with the things I’m interested in,” he says, “but try to do it in a way that’s balanced.” Roth shares his home with his teenage son, Noah: “Part of [why I collect] is to provide some things for him to discover; so I ask him every weekend to pull out a book he’s never looked at before.” And sure enough, Noah recently got a hold of Art Spiegelman’s Maus and couldn’t put it down.

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