Where the Trolleys Are: on chaos and individuality

When I arrived in Perth, I was surprised to see that trolleys didn't have a coin system that made people bring trolleys back to where “they belong” - queued up outside a supermarket car park waiting for the next customer. Australian trolleys are somewhat more free to roam, explore, to live a 'life'. In this way they have much more character than their european counterparts and this is what I have attempted to capture here.

I enjoyed trying to make trolleys attractive, I appreciate the photographic medium because of the relationship it has to reality; it seemingly re-creates reality yet differs from an objective  recording of reality (if it exists) by recording in time one particular and singular point of view. Many visual altering photographic tools (lighting, depth of field, image distortion, post-editing) were used in addition to the necessarily biased photographic recording process (forcing you to see through my eyes, by showing you my photographs) to make these trolley images visually interesting.

Originally trained as a sociologist and political scientist, I tend to reflect and analyse (some would say over-reflect and analyse) such things as trolleys hanging around the place. In this particular case, the images came to me first, the reflection on why these where interesting came after. I will prevent myself from giving my intellectual take on the dangers of conformity and on the inherent necessity of a bit of chaos.  I will however let you appreciate the personality these trolleys seem to have gained by not being where they should be, that little bit of chaos pushing us to attribute to these trolleys some conscious will – to not conform.


The title of the trolley project and the individual titles are all about time and space and and their relativity. The actual time and space (coordinates, time) are here juxtaposed with social time and space (functional/social role) and personal/imaginary (the actual or speculative story of each individual trolleys) time and space and shows their disconnectedness. An objective approach informs you very little of the Story, of what is going on; however, by emphasising on objective time and place by giving them coordinates, I meant to underline that they weren't where they were meant to be according to their functional/social role. This perception of a dysfunctionality leads us to let go of those rigid frameworks of time and space (objective and social) and enter personal (the story of the trolley) and imaginary (our speculation on the story of the trolley) time and space which are obviously far more interesting!

Here is thus, before your eyes my photographic images of the very non-conformist trolleys of Perth.

Where Trolleys Are 2011

Gwenael Velge

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“Places matter. Their rules, their scale, their design include or exclude civil society, pedestrianism, equality, diversity (economic and otherwise), understanding of where water comes from and garbage goes, consumption or conservation. They map our lives [...] the way we inhabit places also matters, and that comes from experience, imagination, belief, and desire as much as or more than from architecture and design. In other words, the mind and the terrain shape each other: every landscape is a landscape of desire to some degree, if not always for its inhabitants”
Solnit, R. 2007. Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics, p.9.

cc 2021 by Gwenaël Velge