What 15 objects have got you through the pandemic?

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.

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.’ §

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