Missed Connections by Sophie Blackall

1

2

I read the loveliest book last night: Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found by Sophie Blackall. Sophie's Missed Connections art prints and book have been making the rounds on blogs, and I'm adding my own blog to the list of admirers, quite simply because I adore everything about her work. If you're unfamiliar with the Missed Connections series, it's based on Sophie's illustrations of the Missed Connections section on Craigslist. I've been silently following this series for quite some time, but when I read the book I knew I wanted to write about it myself.

I emailed Sophie straight after I finished reading, and she very kindly sent me a link to this video about her work:

Handmade Portraits: Sophie Blackall from Etsy on Vimeo.

The Missed Connections book not only compiles some of her best illustrations from the series, but also provides a very funny and warm introductory essay by Sophie explaining how she started illustrating various people's random notices and why she was drawn to them in the first place. Not only is she a very talented illustrator, but she can also write exceptionally well.

In this essay, she talks about the sense of hope associated with the Missed Connections notices, but also, the sense of fear, propriety and shyness that separates people. Most of the Missed Connections she illustrates occur in public places where people gather in crowds, like New York City’s subway system, trains and buses, parties and the busy city streets. It's ironic that I sometimes feel the loneliest in these crowded situations, rather than on my own.

I often experience busy crowds on buses, streets, shopping centres and parties as a type of mild assault. The anonymity associated with crowds can be overwhelming, and I think one of the things that makes Missed Connections so touching is the idea that behind this amorphous crowd lie people who care and who do pay attention to small details. So I guess this is the time to make a small confession: I have many missed connections scribbled down in notebooks I've been carrying with me for years. Most of the time, I write things down just to remember, in case it's useful for my writing later on. Other times, I record random things like 'cute baby smiled at me today', or 'guy stopped me tripping on the bus', for no particular reason. I really have no idea what the point of this is. Maybe it's just a way to turn the anonymous crowd into individuals I can understand. It makes me feel less self-conscious about the world.

3

4

Last night, after that email from Sophie, I curled back in bed and turned some of these random writings into my own Missed Connections. And I'd like to share a few here (please do add some yourself if you feel inclined) ...

Baby on the bus with sticky pink fingers:
You smiled at me, and I don't know why. I really wanted to pinch your chubby cheek and smile back, but your mother looked angry.

Soft-spoken man who waits at the bus-stop with me:
You always ask me how my studies are going, despite the fact that I finished studying years ago. But I think it's sweet of you to ask. I always mean to ask you about your job, but I'm too shy.

Guy dressed in black who grabbed my bag on the bus to stop me from tripping:
You deserved a gold star rather than my red-faced, mumbled 'thank you'.

Elderly man on the bus who laid out his coat for me to sit on after I walked in soaking wet from the rain:
Why can't I find a younger version of you? Do you have a son?

Beautifully-dressed woman who stepped on my shoes and complimented them:
Thanks, I rather like them too. I should have complimented you on your lovely blouse.

Israeli backpacker with long hair on the bus who screamed in joy when I spoke Hebrew back to him:
I wanted to give you my number, but I just couldn't. I hope your travels in Australia are grand (my mother would have liked you).

Two posh-sounding women at Heathrow Airport who helped me with my luggage:
You saved me that day, I was ready to sit on my suitcase and start crying in frustration. I wish I asked your names.

Polite family in front of me in the line at Heathrow Airport:
Thanks for pushing me forward in the line, I guess you could see how tired I was. Who says people aren't kind?

Suavely-dressed man at Charles de Gaulle Airport who helped me lift my suitcase and commented that my luggage weighs as much as his wife's:
I wanted to defend myself and say my luggage was mostly books, but I thought that would've been rude considering you just helped me. You were very handsome, I wanted to have a peek at your wife.

French lad with a lopsided haircut who helped me find my way after getting lost in Paris:
Thank you for getting off the phone to walk around the city with me, your enthusiasm was infectious.

Loud French man who asked for my number on the train and smelled like a hamburger:
I didn't understand a word you were saying, my aunt translated later. I would say sorry, but you were kind of aggressive. Thanks for making my aunt laugh though.

Sweet young woman with a full black fringe who looked after my suitcase on the train to Oxford while I visited the bathroom:
You were the only one who said yes that day, I nearly hugged you. I also thought your boyfriend was an ass on the phone (yes, I listened). I hope you got a new boyfriend.

These are some of my most interesting ones I suppose, I have many boring ones too. But still, even the boring ones testify to our desire to look at the details, glimpse within the mundane routine of life and overcome the barriers separating us from other people with small gestures. I guess that's why it's so comforting to read Sophie's book and delve into her world of Missed Connections.

5

6

You can buy Missed Connections here:

Indie Bound :: Amazon :: Barnes & Noble :: Book Depository

And you can visit Sophie here:

Website :: Blog :: Missed Connections Blog :: Shop

Images sources: All images are by Sophie Blackall and are used here with permission.