What 15 objects have got you through the pandemic?

Designer Paula Zuccotti asked the question: ‘What 15 objects got you through lockdown?’. Over a thousand people responded. These are the results of her expansive, global, year-long collective research project.

15 Lockdown essentials items which include a radio, bowl, beer, dog leash, trainers, bull horn, ipad, keyboard and a few other items.
Ethnographer and designer Paula Zuccotti gathered over a 1,000 images of lockdown essentials from around the world, to create a visual document of the objects that accompanied people during lockdown across the globe. Pictured here are lockdown essentials for Chloe Coulson, from the UK
(Image credit: press)

Ethnographer and designer Paula Zuccotti set herself on a mission to document lockdown essentials throughout the world to create a document of Covid-19 isolation. From Colombia to Cameroun, from Taiwan to the USA, Zuccotti asked contributors from around the world to photograph their lockdown essentials, objects that range from the functional to the whimsical to accompany people’s experience of isolation.

Following an open call from Zuccotti, over 1,000 individuals from 50 countries submitted images to create one of the most comprehensive records of lockdown. ‘What are the fifteen things that are helping you get through this?’, she asked, and the responses came from fellow designers, children and teenagers as well as older generations.

The photographs offer an honest and raw overview of people's lives through lockdown. While geographically-specific objects give a glimpse into different cultural and social contexts, a few items are recurring throughout the world, such as the now-ubiquitous masks, design books and films, art supplies, plants and wellness objects – and often, wine and pets.

Shifting needs, different designs

‘In Argentina, mosquito repellent tells us how the country was fighting Dengue alongside COVID-19,' Zuccotti explains. ‘Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the scarcity of eggs is highlighted. In the United States, a bell is a vehicle to show appreciation for essential workers at 7:00 PM. In a photo from Ecuador, a shamanic drum and Agua de Florida represent the indigenous deity Abuelo Fuego, and a nurse in Kenya includes an item representing a Matatu, the typical Nairobi taxi bus, which is the backbone of Kenyan public transport.’

‘When the reality surrounding Covid-19 hit, I couldn’t help but notice a shift in the objects we were using,’ observes Zuccotti. ‘As someone who believes in the power of objects to tell our stories, I was eager to document the items we were using not just to create a time capsule for future generations, but also to find out what these items could tell us about ourselves and our present circumstances. In my work, I find the questions I get asked about the future hide a truth: we don't understand the present. This archive connects us with our present through the lenses of people with different experiences from all over the world.’

Lockdown essential items which include a laptop, portable speaker, eye glasses, beer, picture, teddy, a book, a neck massager and a few other items.

Ece Kaniskan Eskisehir, from Turkey

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Lockdown essential items which include a laptop, paint, coffee, teddy, vegetables, measuring tape, a magazine, a mask and some sunglasses.

Madgalena Zajac, Slovenia

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Lockdown essential items which include a cell phone, a camera, a tablet, a guitar, a book, a thermos, paint and a coffee mug.

Mohamad Chehimi, Kuwait

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Lockdown essential items which include a drill, felt tip pen, ear phones, a book, a jump rope, an avo and a roll of toilet paper.

Naitiemu Nyanjom, Nairobi

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Lockdown essential items which include an espresso maker, a laptop, swimming goggles, a tennis ball and a garden spade.

Padmavathy Krishna Kumar, Bangalore

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Lockdown essential items which include a drawing pad, music, knitting wool and a coffee cup.

Royce Epstein, Philadelphia

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Lockdown essential items which include a laptop, a Sony play station, a watch, a cell phone, a teddy, a coffee sachet and a bottle of fruit juice.

Siew Hung, Kuala Lumpur

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Lockdown essential items which include a potted plant, trainers, a laptop, a camera, a dog leash and a mask.

Sonia Wang, Taiwan

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Lockdown essential items which include a laptop, a peak cap, garden tools, a canoe ore, a book and a paint brush.

Steff Karsten, Germany

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Lockdown essential items which include a potted plant, a cellphone, a portable speaker, a drawing pad and a cup of coffee.

Teresa Casamayor, Madrid

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Lockdown essential items which include slippers, a hot water bottle, a book, ear pods, a drawing pad and hand cream.

Vanina Mizrahi, Buenos Aires

(Image credit: press)



Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.