Nikki Culley: Photographs
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Things Outlast Us

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

I have wandered many times into a junk shop on Renshaw Street in Liverpool, just for its boxes of used postcards. Last winter, I bought four - addressed to the same family at the same Merseyside address, some dating back to the ‘60s. After hours of trawling online records, I located the last known address of Mrs. Mona Shackleton. It was a care home in The Wirral.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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The Shackletons

I learned that Mona Shackleton had recently passed away. But this link led me to her son Len, who had also lost his father John, a few years earlier. Since then I have come to know Mona and John through the things Len kept to remember them.

 
 

 

It’s such a lovely collection.  Len invited me to his home and told me so many stories about his Mum and Dad through these things over tea and shortbread. A raft of routinely kept diaries: “Saturday 17 July 1999: Cooler again today. Watched golf all day”.

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Hand-drawn cross sections of plants from John’s 1940s Zoology college notes. A small brass bell moulded as a loud woman with a ballooned skirt, winking silver Spitfire cufflinks, battered bird-watching binoculars...

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I decided to photograph all these things using a clockwork film camera and print from negatives in the darkroom. I really wanted to take my time over them.

Through this series of photographs, I share my experience of getting to know two people who I never met, through the memories attached to things.

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