Paula Zuccotti

Designer Paula Zuccotti asked 62 people from around the world to record every item they touched in a single day.

From the alarm that wakes you up in the morning to the toothbrush you use before bed, you’re constantly touching, holding, and manipulating objects—leaving your mark on the world in a tangible way. But what would all those items say about you in isolation, removed from their contexts and viewed in the aggregate? That’s the question at the heart of “Every Thing We Touch,” a photo project by London-based designer Paula Zuccotti.

Zuccotti asked 62 people from around the world to record every object they touched in a 24-hour period. Then, she photographed the results, which are compiled in a new book.

Each collection follows the same set of parameters: Participants were asked to hand over all their objects, along with a record of what they did during the day. Clothing was included, but large or permanent fixtures, such as cars, furniture, and light switches, were not; food items and money were replicated in the studio. Each person’s objects were then arranged chronologically (in the order in which they were touched) on a canvas and photographed from above.

(Paula Zuccotti)
(Paula Zuccotti)

The average number of objects touched was about 140, but since Zuccotti didn’t set any quotas, there’s a great deal of variation. Some inventories are cluttered with knickknacks, while others are relatively spare and dominated by a few large items, like Katsumi’s (above).

Familiar objects often served surprising purposes. For example, the blender in Nini’s inventory (below) wasn’t used for cooking at all; the 28-year-old artist from Shanghai was using it to mix paint.

(Paula Zuccotti)

While most participants picked a “typical” day to record their objects, others opted for the weekend “because they get to do things they really like,” Zuccotti says. “It depended really on what each person did for living.” Katsumi, for instance, chose a “very special day”—when he got to travel from London to Macau to perform in a show.

As a result, these inventories conceal as much as they reveal. Zuccotti calls them “future archaeology,” wondering what we can learn from the purely tactile detritus of daily life—especially as more and more of it migrates online and out of reach.

If you’re interested in excavating your own life, Zuccotti invites you to send a photo of the objects you touch to yourphoto@everythingwetouch.org.

Every Thing We Touch: A 24-Hour Inventory of Our Lives, £13.60 (about $21 USD) at Amazon UK.

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