As a kid, you might’ve had a fingerprint dusting kit, but you probably never thought to use it like Lorena Turner, a self-described “social scientist with a camera.” Turner went to several US department stores and purchased items manufactured and packaged in China. She kept them in their packaging until they were dusted for fingerprints and subsequently photographed under a black light. The eerie results show the glowing smear of fingerprints, emblazoned on items such as calculators, measuring tapes, and light bulbs.
In this project entitled Made in China, Turner aims to challenge the notion that all packaged goods are void of history, reminding us that a human hand is behind all the items we purchase. “Made in China is not intended to comment on the scale or absurdity of our consumptive practices, but to remind us that we are only one factor in that equation,” states Turner. “[This project] forces us to reconsider the relationship those who are leaving their fingerprints on each item may have with it.”
Through such a simple crime scene technique, Turner’s reanimation of these cold, everyday objects results in an undeniable warmth that no amount of plastic packaging can hide. If even the most mass produced objects are covered in workers’ fingerprints — the most unique identifier of an individual — maybe there’s a little bit of authorship in everything that surrounds us. What if one day, instead of just hidden fingerprints, all of our goods were accompanied with the names of every person involved in the manufacturing process?
View more photographs of Made in China at Lorena Turner’s site.
Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.