A la Cart: The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers

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My friend, Hillary Carlip, likes to collect other people's discarded shopping lists. She likes them so much she created an art project based on the lists. She has a new book out called A la Cart: The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers, in which she imagines the identity of the shopper and assumes their identity and creates a story about them.
Taking her clues from the items listed, the types of paper written on, the handwriting, and even misspellings ("Aunt Spray"), Hillary saw that each list -- at once mundane and personal -- offered an intimate peek into a complete stranger's life. She picked twenty-six lists and imagined who the shoppers might be. She next transformed herself into all twenty-six people, one by one, literally stepping into each character -- all ages, genders, and ethnicities -- with hair, make-up, outfits, and one Fu Manchu. Photographer Barbara Green then captured unforgettable images of Hillary portraying these shoppers at their neighborhood markets.

Hillary came to love these characters, so her accompanying stories for each are as poignant and hilarious as the photographs. She brings to life richly imagined inner worlds, including one for macho Woody, a self-described "Lady's Man with NO BANKRUPTCIES ready to meet just one Special Lady with NO KIDS."



  1. Bill Kaeggy has already made a book like this called “Milk Eggs Vodka, Grocery Lists Lost and Found”. His web site Keaggy.com should also blow you away with his photo’s of unspectacular doors, sad chairs, and rocks shaped like shoes.

  2. huh. I guess “Aunt Spray” meant “Ant Spray.” My initial guess was WAAAAAAY off.

    see you this tuesday,

  3. Reminds me of an old David Byrne song from the Knee Plays. The song was called social studies. An excerpt:

    When shopping at the supermarket
    I felt a great desire to walk off with someone else’s groceries
    So I could study them at length
    And study their effects on me
    As though if I ate their groceries I would become that person; until I finished their groceries


  4. So HAPPY to see this post and link. I’ve been a fan of Carlip’s since her early days.

    FYI, she has been collecting the found lists for over 25 years.. and had a gallery show of some earlier characters and found lists in NY in the ’80’s.


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