Is This Your Luggage: A Q&A with Luna Laboo

Ever wondered what people pack when they go away? How do they cram their dreams, their fantasies and their toiletries into a single suitcase? At Is This Your Luggage, the mysterious Luna Laboo opens cases and shows us what's inside. Part art-project, part-philanthropy, totally weird, LL buys lost cases at auction then photographs them for display on the internet in the hope of finding their owners. It's a story that interested me so I did a Q&A and found out that people rarely pack shoes and how hanky folding can show character.

Hackpacker: What made you start collecting and photographing other people's luggage?
Luna Laboo: Loads of luggage went missing when they opened a new terminal at Heathrow airport. I saw a few news reports on it and started to wonder what happened to it all. I discovered through the internet where it was being sold at auction and went along to buy a case.

HP: Are there ever items that you don't photograph when you open up some luggage (and why)?
LL: No. I photograph everything in the case, I think the airports take certain items out, like liquids for security reasons. I very rarely find shoes, I don't really know why.

HP: The luggage all looks fairly generic on the site - what makes you bid on some items and not on others? I noticed, for example, that there seem to be more women's cases - is that just accidental or do you look for something when you're bidding?
LL: On the auction list the only thing it says about the luggage is if it is women's or men's clothes. I don't pick luggage on what it looks like I just bid for all the cases and end up with the cheaper ones. They sell for between £16 and £60 so I have to have a limit I don't spend more than £30. I do try to get an even amount of men and women, so hopefully my next case will be men's and even it out.
HP: Have you ever found something you've been tempted to keep?
LL: Not really, there are some nice clothes in the bags, even some brand new clothes, but they are not mine they belong to the owners and it would be wrong for me to wear them.

HP: What's the weirdest thing you've seen when you've opened a bag?
LL: The nurse's outfit was a bit of a shock, but it's little things that are unusual or interesting. Like how they have folded all their hankies differently or balled all their socks with the odd pair. These things aren't really weird just interesting, these people didn't ever imagine that I would end up with their luggage so all these little things are insights into them.

HP: There's a very meticulous method to laying things out when you photograph items - even dirty socks are paired and straightened. Why is that?
LL: I want it to be clear what the contents are, I also really like the display element. A bit like butterflies in those gruesome boxes when their little wings are stretched out. The design of the images was very important to me, I wanted this everyday stuff to look special.

HP: To me each case seems to give little character insights into its owner - Blue case big, for example, has mostly boxers and some small carpets making for an odd traveller. You call another bigman which seems a nod to character. Do you find yourself imagining characters based on the luggage?
LL: Yes. I make stories up for all of them. They are all very real people to me, weirdly I feel like I know them. I was going was going to put them on the site but then I think people should be free to make their own stories up.

HP: Has anyone ever used them as writing prompts for short fiction?
LL: Not as far as I know. I have been asked to make a book of the pictures so I was planing on putting my stories of what they are like to me and how they came to loose their luggage in that.

HP: So far no-one has claimed their luggage from the site - what do you imagine will happen when they do? Will you meet them in person?
LL: I was going to mail the luggage back to them but as it has taken a while to find someone (no real owners have come forward yet) I have decided to fly with the luggage to meet the owner and hopefully to photograph them and find out what they are really like.

HP: Given the site has had a fair amount of international exposure - have you had any scammers tried to reclaim luggage?
LL: One or two, but they are quite sweet really. One guy claimed a case and when I asked him for more info he apologised said he was drunk and had been dared to email me.

HP: I love the site's look with luggage labels as navigation and a real simplicity. Was this so it could be easily expanded?
LL: Mainly it is simple because it is the first web site I have ever made. I am a designer of sorts but not a web designer, so I am very glad you like it. I did want to keep it simple so people were interested in the cases not any fancy stuff (not that I know how to do the fancy stuff.)

HP: Some websites have called this project philanthropy, others art and a few creepy - are you happy with any of these labels?
LL: Yes, I quite like that it has divided people a bit. I guess it is rather creepy if you don't really know that I want to get the stuff back to the owners and the site is a means to an end. I think people are very mistrustful of people who do something for free or because it makes them feel good, even my friends keep saying, 'You should put some ads on the site and make some money' but that's not what it is about. It's about helping people who have lost something to get it back. The more interesting things like the nurses outfit and the pants are the things that weirdly or not interest people and that's why the site gets passed around and the more it does the more chance I have of finding an owner.

HP: You're based in the UK but the site has been well promoted across the world. Do you think you'll eventually find the owners?
LL: I really hope so that is my main aim, so fingers crossed and if you know any one who has lost a case send them my way.

Image by Luna Laboo.

4 comments:

kcardigan said...

Wow, there is a distinct lack of underwear in a couple of them. Great interview. thanks.

Hackpacker said...

Clearly if you're on holiday underwear isn't required. Or maybe Heathrow just attracts the pantless traveller. More study needs to be done on this...

parlance said...

Reminds me of the time in Germany when the customs officer decided to throw the contents of my luggage around the customs table. (The presence of the guy with the machine gun added to the joy of it all.)

It's all clothing. It'd be interesting to see the other bits and pieces that are stuffed in there. (Or is it only Australians heading off for parts unknown who take everything but the kitchen sink?)

Those little mats, however... I reckon they're prayer mats.

Scott Kennedy said...

i never travel with underwear - who does? i'd have to agree with the prayer mats guess, that was my thought. very cool interview George - really enjoyed it!
cheers
Scott

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