Thursday, 27 March 2008

The Digital Divide, or: If the Glove Fits...

Over the last few months I have been photographing lost gloves and mittens that I find in the street and on the sidewalks of Oxford. This is the sort of behavior that worries my family. It embarrasses them but it also frightens them, since it seems just one more stumble upon the slippery slope that ends with me not able to remember who's president or discern a wristwatch from a tea kettle.

But to those who would ask me "Why do you photograph lost gloves?" I can only give an answer that echoes that given by Mallory when he was asked why he wanted to climb Everest: "Because they're there."

Lost gloves are the inevitable byproduct of winter. This particular English winter, I'm told, has been mild. And yet it's affected me greatly. Frustratingly inconsistent, it's been blustery and biting one minute, sunny and pleasant the next. Just yesterday we had every form of microclimate it's possible to experience in one 12-hour period, including an uncharacteristically hard-driving rain, glorious sunshine that made me sweat, and hail. It's no wonder I feel slightly schizophrenic.

Of all our articles of clothing, we have the closest relationships with our gloves. They protect our hands, the structure of which separates us from our nearest mammal cousins. Every time we slip them on we recreate that most intimate of acts. Whether leather or fabric, expensive or cheap, gloves fit us like, well, like a glove. Gloves are metaphors for connection, a connection not just with their owner, but with another glove. Every glove is a twin, sharing the secret language that twins share.

And so every one of these errant accessories--soggy and forlorn on the pavement--has a story, a past: where they were bought, when they were worn, and culminating in that awful moment when all relationships were severed. Running for the bus, pulling out the change, answering the mobile. One minute you had two gloves and then you had one.

But you don't figure that out until later. "Where's my glove?" you wonder.

It's on the ground, looking like the victim in a crime-scene photograph. Or it's on a wall or fence, propped up by a passerby who thinks such a display will increase the chances of a reunion.

But it rarely does. Like a good friend snatched too soon that glove is gone. Oh well, you think, I can always buy a new pair. And besides, spring is on the way.

Here is my gallery of lost gloves:


Candadai Tirumalai said...

The forlorn single glove in a variety of settings is not uncommon but one occasionally sees two of a pair left behind in a Metro station or elsewhere.

mark from alexandria said...

Tell your family not to start worrying until you start channelling the late Johnny Cochran. They should become concerned if they catch you calling out, at inappropriate moments: "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit!"

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

I actually try not to remember who's president - it's less painful that way.

Ken said...

I've been looking forward to this post all day, and now I feel blue. Why is it that melancholy is the over-riding sensation evoked by a lost glove?

Sarah Laurence Blog said...

I'm with your family, John, on this one. You're worrying me. Although I did like the title. I was expecting: All You Need is Glove. If something goes missing in our household, we blame the dog. She'll eat anything except oyster sauce and broccoli.

When I lived in London back in the late 80's there was a marketing genius who worked for M&S in the flat above us. She came up with the idea of selling a pair of socks with one spare, sold in a box resembling a washing machine. Wasteful but witty.