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A photograph of the hands of Olympic Rower Anna Watkins by Tim Booth

nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

ee cummings

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An Engrossing Book

Steve Knightley

"I found myself surprisingly moved by this remarkable collection of images and stories. There's so much labour, love and life tied up in this engrossing, poignant and unique book."

The hands of Dave Sales Lobster Fisherman holding a tristed old rope by Tim Booth
A photograph of the open hands of the impresionist Alistair McGowan by Tim Booth Photography
A photograph of the cover of the book A Show of Hands by Tim Booth Photography

The award winning book A Show of Hands is a beautifully printed and a unique collection of remarkable photographs of hands by the photographer Tim Booth, with a foreword by Jonny Wilkinson. The book contains emotive and powerful photographs of hands from all corners of society, from builders to world class musicians, artists to grave-diggers – it’s an insightful and moving book of striking photographs that you’ll turn to again and again.

Video interview with Tim Booth on the making of A Show of Hands

The hand of Jonny Wilkinson in the book A Show of Hands by photographer Tim Booth

From the Foreword.

In my hands lies my past, every skill I ever learnt and everything I ever did, the blood and the mud washed away a million times but still there and still with me everywhere I go.

My hands tell the story of me.

Jonny Wilkinson                                 

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The gnarled hands of Molly Booth resting on her walking stick from the book A Show of Hands by Tim Booth Photography

Molly Booth - Grandmother

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

One afternoon in May 1996 I popped in on my 95 year old grandmother for our weekly chat and a catch-up. She was as usual sitting in her garden, feet wrapped in plastic bags to keep out the damp, her wellingtons long abandoned since arthritis rendered them too uncomfortable. As we sat having tea in the shade of an apple tree I, almost for the first time, noticed her hands. Gnarled and twisted with age, wrapped around her walking stick as if rooted there, they were not only visually striking, they seemed also to be a poignant mark of the passage of her long life. She had wanted to be a musician, and played the piano beautifully, but in the 1900’s such things were frowned upon, so she was instead sent to the Slade where she became a fairly accomplished artist. She hated her hands now of course, but allowed me to take a photograph nevertheless.

When I later came to develop it, it instantly became my favourite portrait of my grandmother.
These hands had lived through two world wars, still wore the wedding ring for a husband dead for 39 years, had painted, played the piano every day until her fingers no longer behaved as she’d like, gardened extensively, chopped wood, cared for the sick, dressed and fed my departed father as well as myself and my siblings. Made the very best ginger beer, caught crayfish from the river, made countless pots of marmalade and quince jelly, played tennis for her county, and played a mean game of croquet. It seemed to me as if her life was woven into these hands, and so began a project that I can’t really imagine will ever end.

The hand of explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes holding a compass over a map of Antarctica from the book A Show of Hands by Tim Booth Photography

"Brilliant!" Sir Ranulph Fiennes - Explorer

Discover the beautiful and fascinating world of hands in this insightful book. Copies can be ordered signed, plain or inscribed with a dedication.

For what is a hand but...

to hold, to touch, to feel, to wash, to cook, to eat, to make, to sculpt, to draw, to catch, to hit, to mould, to play, to shake, to clasp, to clap, to flick, to sign, to protect, to paint, to compete, to drink, to strike, to spin, to mend, to harm, to heal, to sew, to stitch, to dress, to design, to conduct, to pluck, to strum, to drum, to stroke, to pray, to express, to say, to fold, to cross, to wring, to squeeze, to fondle, to tease, for what is a hand but to do all these.

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