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Alex Hammond/Mike Tinney: The Secret Life of The Pencil – Tom Dixon (detail)

Work / Photography

Top creatives show us their tips in a show exploring The Secret Life of the Pencil

There’s a famous story about the 1960s Space Race in which the USA spent millions developing a pen that could write in zero-gravity. The Russians, meanwhile, used a pencil. Alas it turns out to be a myth but even though apocryphal, the tale’s enduring popularity speaks to the simple brilliance of the first bit of creative kit most of us ever used.

Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney decided to investigate The Secret Life of The Pencil, photographing those used by leading creatives from James Dyson to Nick Park, David Shrigley to Peter Saville, Dave Eggers to the ennobled Blakes (Peter and Quentin). Shot in viivd detail, we’re invited to explore the “secrets of their use” and consider how many colossal creative achievements begin life at the tip of a bit of lead.

Interested in how the digitally-dominated era will affect the pencil’s role, the project is part celebration and potentially part elegy and it’s going on show at Paul Smith’s Albemarle Street store from 19 May to 3 June.

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Alex Hammond/Mike Tinney: The Secret Life of The Pencil – Christopher Reid

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Alex Hammond/Mike Tinney: The Secret Life of The Pencil – Stephen Fry

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Alex Hammond/Mike Tinney: The Secret Life of The Pencil – Tom Dixon

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Alex Hammond/Mike Tinney: The Secret Life of The Pencil – Alexander McCall Smith

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Alex Hammond/Mike Tinney: The Secret Life of The Pencil – James Dyson

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Alex Hammond/Mike Tinney: The Secret Life of The Pencil – William Boyd

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Alex Hammond/Mike Tinney: The Secret Life of The Pencil – Paul Smith

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Alex Hammond/Mike Tinney: The Secret Life of The Pencil – Julia Quenzler

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Alex Hammond/Mike Tinney: The Secret Life of The Pencil – Posy Simmonds