Everything We Touch by Paula Zuccotti
What do the objects you use everyday say about you? How do the material objects in a person’s life reflect their values, their lifestyle and their pursuits? These are some of the questions explored in this project by Paula Zuccotti, called Everything We Touch.
Zuccotti is a London-based industrial designer, trends forecaster, ethnographer and founder of The Overworld, a creative consultancy specialising on research, strategy, future studies and design.
As meaning makers, we often look to sentimental or nostalgic objects to make sense of a person’s life. But Everything We Touch reveals that meaning can be derived through the quotidian. As Zuccotti says:
“From the items found in our homes, to the tools we use at work, we surround ourselves with objects necessary for our existence in today’s world. But these needs are huge and diverse: they range from survival and performance to compensation and caring, emotional attachment and self-expression.
Imagine what your day would look like if you recorded everything you touched in 24 hours . . . and if everything was brought together in one place and a single photograph was taken of it all. What would that image say about you and your day? Would strangers g et a good sense of your life by looking at the objects laid out in chronological order? What would they deduce about you? What would they miss?
I felt the urge to document our current interaction with these objects. Many of the things we know about past civilisations are from insights gathered through their objects. Their tools, utensils, clothes, manuscripts and art have taught us about the work they did, what they hunted, grew and ate and how they dressed or expressed themselves. Will ours do the same?”
In terms of process, Zuccotti focuses on collecting a broad and diverse range of subjects (and their objects):
“Driven by this idea, I travelled around the world to find people from an incredible array of ages, cultures, professions and backgrounds. I asked them to document every object they touched within 24 hours. Then I gathered those objects together, laid them all out (in the order of when they were touched) on a canvas measuring 4 x 2.7 meters and photographed them. Permanent objects such as door handles and light switches or large items like cars or sofas were excluded.
Each photograph is a single shot taken with a Canon 6D and not a Photoshop mash-up. The camera was hooked up 4 meters above the canvas where the objects lay.”
Zuccotti’s vision is influenced by her interest in ethnography. The ethnographer understands by narrowing the distance between the observer and the observed. In exploring people through the objects close to them, Zuccotti provides us with an intimate view of the subject. And she hopes it’s a view that will provide knowledge for those who come after us:
“The resulting photographs are snapshots of a moment in life. In lieu of having them as artifacts of our time, future generations will be able to understand how individuals conducted their daily lives.”
The book based on the project, Everything We Touch: A 24-Hour Inventory of Our Lives is available through Amazon.