Much Loved - stuffed animal portraits by Mark Nixon

Ted | Age: 24 | Height: 9" | Belongs To: Helen Lyons

Much Loved started as a very simple idea: to photograph some "loved to bits" teddy bears for an exhibition in my studio, which happily has a gallery space.

I got the idea from watching my son, Calum. I was struck by how attached he was to his Peter Rabbit, the way he squeezed it with delight when he was excited, the way he buried his nose in it while sucking his thumb, and how he just had to sleep with Peter every night. I vaguely remembered having similar childhood feelings about my own Panda.

The photographer I admire the most is Irving Penn. His portrait work, from the 1940s and 1950s especially, made me want to become a photographer. With his still-life work, I loved the alchemy of his Street Material series, how he could take pieces of trash and cigarette butts off the street, photograph them, and turn them into works of art. The idea of making an everyday object, something so familiar that it's invisible, become visible again appealed to me.

So, I put the call out for people to bring in their much-loved teddies -- the more loved, unwashed, and falling apart the better -- to be photographed. I expected it to be mostly children, but it soon became apparent that the idea appealed very much to adults, and that many of them were still very attached to their teddies. It was as though they had been keeping a long-held secret and could finally tell someone what their teddies really meant to them.

Their strength of feeling took me by surprise. While waiting, they would tell some usually funny story about their teddy (how they had nearly lost it at some stage was a common theme), or would speak emotionally about what it meant to them. So the stories and memories became integral to the photographs, adding significance to them and bringing them to life.

Peter Rabbit | Age: 10 | Height: 16" | Belongs To: Calum Nixon

Teddy Moore | Age: 43 | Height: 14" | Belongs To: Daragh O' Shea

Ear Open | Age: 32 | Height: 10" | Belongs To: Maeve Whelan

Panda | Age: 50 | Height: 16" | Belongs To: Mark Nixon

Gerry the Giraffe | Age: 10 | Height: 23" | Belongs To: Sophie Farrell

Bugs | Age: 46 | Height: 9" | Belongs To: Conor Owens/Sarah Owens

Teddy | Age: 22+ | Height: 18" | Belongs To: Rowan Atkinson

Excerpt from Much Loved
By Mark Nixon
Published by Abrams Images
© 2013 by Mark Nixon