Meet the artists - Nikki Culley / by Unio Collective


I squinted at the backs of them in the dimly lit, overcrowded shop. Some had formal greeting, a handful of words, neat handwriting learned in a previous age. Others brimmed with information that leaked beyond the allotted space and curled into borders of words around the address. Gee-up, Dear M, Yes we are here once again…

I had wandered many times into this junk shop on Renshaw Street in Liverpool and its box of used postcards completely captured me; I could read people's memories exactly as they had been made.

Last winter, I found four postcards in the junk shop dating back to the '60s, sent to the same people and to the same Merseyside address. After tracing backwards I located Len, the son of the recently-passed recipients, Mona and John Shackleton.

When I first met Len, he arrived with a pink, plastic bag full of old family photographs and scattered them across the table in a coffee shop. He had a story to tell for each one and also told me about some things the family had collected to remember his parents.

There were so many lovely things. A routinely kept diary: “Saturday 17 July 1999: Cooler again today. Watched golf all day”. Cross-sections of plants from 1940s college notes, winking silver RAF Spitfire cufflinks, battered bird-watching binoculars...

In my series of photographs for Independents Biennial 2018, I share my fascinating experience of getting to know the lives of two people I never met through the memories attached to collected things.

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