I’m a lover of book shops and can rarely visit one without walking away with a purchase. I like the tactile pleasure of reading a physical book and have never quite found the same joy in reading a novel on the kindle or iPad. I love browsing books, handling books, getting excited about new books.
So I found myself in Harry Hartog Bookseller, browsing the second-hand photography “coffee table” books (a favourite past-time of mine). I found an old catalogue from the 2014 Australia ‘Head On’ Photographic Festival; the Portrait Prize finalists and winner as beautiful as they are inspiring. I was feeling pretty chuffed and looking forward to flicking through the featured images. Happy with my find, I made my way to the counter.
As I walked past, I cast my eye over the ‘new releases’ table. A hardcover book with a photograph of a well-worn teddy bear caught my eye. The poor thing looked so forlorn but very loved. I gently eased open the cover and was drawn in by the stories and images. It took all of 5 seconds before I was completely sold. “Much Loved” by Mark Nixon is an absolutely gorgeous book featuring photographs of, well, teddy bears. What started as an idea for photographing “loved to bits” teddy bears for an exhibition in his own studio (based on watching his own son and his much-loved Peter Rabbit) turned into a full-blown book with stories of teddies. Each teddy is photographed and featured alongside the owner’s associated memory or short story of their teddy. This book is gorgeous, the teddy stories fascinating to read.
This got me thinking – did I have any images of my daughter with her “Teddy”? Or with her Tiger twins and Rainbow Unicorn? And what about Brown Sugar and Buttercup bears? My daughter’s “transitional objects” are numerous, although one teddy does stand above the rest. “Teddy” was given to hear as a baby by my uncle and aunty on her first Christmas, when she was only a few months old. “Teddy” is/was white, slightly fluffy and full of rice or something similar. His stuffing moves around inside him, making him incredibly easy to custom shape for cuddles. His ears are also good for rubbing under your nose, an assumption I’ve made based on how many times a day my daughter still does this.
So, inspired by Mark Nixon’s book and seeking to create a few special memories of our own, my daughter and I collaborated on a 15 minute photo shoot (the extent of her patience and inclination to smile). I’d like to present our very short photographic essay called “Teddy and Friends”.
Last but not least – how could I forget my own teddy bear? Teddy has been with me nearly all of my life. His original plastic nose is long gone, his mouth replaced with one stitched by my mother instead. He is worn through in some places from too much love, but still hanging in there. He generally has a very grumpy demeanour, but that’s Teddy. Over the years I’ve tried to smooth back the fur above his eyes, to give him a happier disposition. It didn’t work. I asked my mother why she stitched such a severe mouth and not a happy smile; I think it was about expediency, my age and lack of discernment. Despite these things, he’s my teddy and is still with me, providing comfort for my own daughter too. He’s been through pre-school, primary school and teenage years, multiple house moves and room-mates, boyfriends, a marriage and has even shared my baby’s cot. He’s pretty damn special, especially to me. He deserves his own moment.
Here’s to teddies: yours, your children’s, your parents and even your pets. We love them.