Mol, 37, Buenos Aires, Special FX Artist
Anna, 2, Tokyo, Toddler
The story of a person, suggests London-based photographer Paula Zuccotti, can be told by the items he or she uses, consumes, and handles. Even the most mundane and familiar objects of our daily lives, from our morning routines, workplace habits, to bedtime rituals, carry meanings about who we are, where we come from, and who we want to be.
For Every Thing We Touch, the photographer journeyed to twelve cities throughout six continents, asking sixty-two subjects to document each and every object with which they came into contact over the duration of one day. In studio, she then organized each person’s items over a 4 by 2.7 meter canvas before shooting the entire collection within a single overhead frame. Along with the images, she includes brief daily biographies on individuals from infancy into old age, mapping the movements and activities of everyone from a Tucson cowboy to a Marrakech cook, a Melbourne tattoo artist to a 2-year-old Tokyo girl.
Zuccotti describes the project, to which she has devoted an astonishing 1488 hours, as a “future archeology.” She sees each person’s day-to-day accumulation not only as the reflection of one life but also as a record of our era and its diversity of peoples. Singularly, the meticulously arranged images contain the nuances and idiosyncrasies of their owners; together, they become a treasure trove of data and a measured study of modern life.
In 2015, Zuccotti’s work has an element of urgency that might not have been present even one decade ago. As we move further into the digital age, the tangible things in our lives take on different roles, and in a world dominated by stuff, individual goods and gadgets perhaps have become less fundamental to our survival and our functioning. The photographer has learned that the average person touches about one hundred and forty objects a day, but she’s also gathered that those objects are continuously changing; the book, music player, and internet browser, for instance, have all been condensed into one smart phone.
The photographer leaves out of her survey large items—like cars—and permanent objects—like bathtubs or sinks—shooting only the movable and most often ephemeral materials that run through the peripheries of our lives. Each object is pictured once, regardless of how many times it was touched, and each is given equal weight without consideration for either emotional or practical significance.
Despite the clean and clinical aesthetic of Every Thing We Touch, and perhaps even because of it, the book emerges not as an entirely unsentimental audit of daily living but instead as a deeply felt homage to today, a testament to both its brevity and its consequence. For many of Zuccotti’s subjects, the project inspired introspection and consideration of their practices; of the rest of us, it not only asks that we not do the same but dares us to imagine what in fact similar images will look like in ten or one hundred years time.
Every Thing We Touch is published by Viking. Purchase it here.
David, 23, Tucson, Cowboy
Claire, 34, Los Angeles, Film Director
Gemma, 48, Marrakech, Cook
Kitty, 25, Melbourne, Tattoo Artist
Nini, 28, Shanghai, Artist, Screen Printing, Illustration
Pedro, 43, Madrid, Musician
All images © Paula Zuccotti