To begin with, it just sounds impossible. But ethnographer and trend forecaster Paula Zuccotti has proved that, in fact, taking an inventory of every thing a person touches in 24 hours is not just doable, but also can yield beautiful and enlightening results. Her book, Every Thing We Touch: a 24-hour inventory of our lives is published by Viking next month and, in a series of meticulously arranged photographs, she shows how simply and unexpectedly a series of objects can tell extraordinary stories about our existence.
From a toddler in Tokyo to a San Franciscan stylist, via a cleaner in Madrid and an A&E doctor in Melbourne, Zuccotti lays out lifestyles in a whole new way. Sixty two subjects span six continents and four generations. 'The images act as a kind of future archaeology,' says Zuccotti, who is also a trained industrial designer and worked at design and innovation consultancy Seymour Powell for 12 years as director of futures. Now in charge of her own consultancy, The Overworld, the London-based Argentinean has travelled the world researching people’s everyday activities.
'Our current interaction with objects is something I felt the urge to document,' she explains. 'Many of the things we know about past civilisations are from insights gathered through their objects. Their possessions, tools, clothes, manuscripts and art have taught us about the type of work they did, what they hunted, grew and ate, and how they expressed themselves. Will ours do the same?'
The number of objects touched was around 140 on average, but that’s an arbitrary number, notes Zuccotti, who says some would feel they had touched a lot while others not enough. 'Those in their 20s wanted "better" stuff, while people in their 30s and over aspired to have less.'
Zuccotti might have proved that the project itself wasn’t impossible. Failing to get lost in this stunning collection of photographs, however? That’s another thing altogether.