I always thought that my teddy bear, acquired when I was born, was gently and endearingly tatty – his yellow fur is quite matted and a little thin in places and his limbs are somewhat misshapen thanks to various hugging pressure-points over the years but he still has his eyes and ears. I now know that compared to some bears, he’s in terrific shape.
Dublin-based portrait photographer Mark Nixon has created Much Loved, a superb collection of images of individual teddies and other stuffed animals that have been thoroughly ‘loved’ from years of play.
“The well-worn toys show battle scars of being the prized possessions of children and cherished companions that have seen many a repair as different parts start wearing down,” says Nixon.
Indeed, there are many bears in the collection of 64 photographs who are threadbare, missing limbs and eyes, and who are endearingly grubby. Some look quite flat, having withstood years of love being squeezed out (or into) them. I think the most amazing is ten-year-old Gerry the giraffe – now just a bunch of straggly pieces, held together by who-knows-what, and sporting a new, jaunty red cape (worn to hold his stuffing in).
Each of the portraits is accompanied by a story from the bear’s owner. Many of these stories, such as the one about Patsy, a patchwork dog, involve misplaced animals and parents driving for hours to retrieve them (actually, my own teddy was involved in such an incident – the round trip took my dad just over two hours). There’s also Brownie, the world traveller; Pierre, the bunny who spent an afternoon at Ralph Lauren; and Bobo who has been passed down from father to daughter.
My favourite story is that of stern Teddy Tingley – a little guy who has clearly never recovered from his dash to catch a departing train (he was almost left behind and was flung from the platform onto the moving train – traumatic for all involved).
Much Loved is available online at Book Depository, who deliver free of charge to Australia.