I Fingerprinted Everything I Bought to See If It Had Been Contaminated

The final project in our lockdown photo series: "Latent Labour", by Lewis Bush.
September 28, 2020, 2:38pm
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A few weeks into lockdown, VICE UK put a call out to some of our favourite photographers. We wanted submissions for photo essays that reflect the time we're living in – but interesting, imaginative projects, not just "I'm stuck inside, here are some pictures of my cheese-plant".

Luckily, because the photographers we reached out to are all interesting and imaginative people, we got a ton of great ideas back, which we've whittled down to ten final projects. We're running one every week for ten weeks, to be followed by an exhibition you can stage in your very own home (details on that to come).

The tenth and final project is by Lewis Bush, who has kindly explained it below.

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Once mundane activities now seem to carry a deadly risk. The fear, justified or otherwise, of carrying infectious residues of the COVID-19 virus into one’s home is a very real one for thousands of people, both those with underlying health vulnerabilities and those without. In response to this, I began to approach shopping from the perspective of a forensic investigator.

During my weekly shop, and when receiving deliveries by post, I handled everything with latex gloves, relaying these items to an improvised fingerprinting lab in my home. I then dusted these items with forensic fingerprint powders, which revealed the invisible or “latent” prints of others who had handled these products at different stages between their production and delivery.

What began as an inquiry into fears about contamination has also become one about the traces left behind by the labourers who make our modern economies possible. Shop workers, parcel delivery people, warehouse workers and the like are among the most poorly paid and also often most exposed in a time of social distancing.

That vulnerability, in large part, stems from their invisibility to the rest of us, even when they – and their traces – are in fact right in front of our eyes.

See more images below, buy a zine of the photos here and follow Lewis on Instagram right here.

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