Missed Connections by Sophie Blackall

Friday, 24 February 2012

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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.

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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.

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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.

41 comments:

rooth said...

This is so awesome - I've always just thought the missed connections were kind of creepy but everyone secretly thinks about it. The illustrations are just lovely too

pRiyA said...

I utterly absolutely enjoyed looking through the illustrations. Thank you for the introduction to the inspiring Sophie Blackall.
I totally empathize with the description 'mild assault' when in a crowd. But I love how it is overcome by you making your own list of Missed Connections.
This is such a touching and inspiring post. Thank you.

Leah said...

These are beautiful. There's so much feeling in them, which comes through so well in her illustrations.

I think that really all these missed connections are just other forms of connections for us. We go away from those little moments better, different people with a bit of warmth inside us that says, 'There are other people out there...'
Sometimes that is enough.

Heather said...

Oh I love yours!

Mariella said...

Hila, this is so sweet! sometimes it takes just a small gesture to feel more connected to people and yet sometimes wrapped up in our own life we forget about it. I had watched the video a few days ago and I think these illustrations and the whole idea is just beautiful.

amy said...

elderly german gentleman in a bar in nürnberg. you told me to 'dance, dance with him, you're only young once'. and so i did. x

kori said...

I'm going to buy Sophie's book! Thank you for sharing. Your missed connections were a pleasure to read. This whole post is just one beautiful reminder of how we're all just trying to connect somehow, some way.

This also reminds me of John Berger's book, "Photocopies", in which he writes about several people he has in some way felt love for. A couple of them would fit in very well with Missed Connections.

Monica said...

the in-between places are my favourite places. so the idea of missed connections totally reels me in.
and i enjoyed reading yours too.
how often have i thought - do you have a son? lol

Hotly Spiced said...

What a great post. I just loved reading this. I didn't know you could speak Hebrew! That's incredible. I've heard it's quite a difficult language to learn. I have a friend learning it at the moment and she really struggles. Have a lovely weekend Hila xx

Siubhan said...

This is such a beautiful post - your missed connections and Sophie's. The illustrations are fantastic: funny and slightly sad at the same time. I love your story about speaking Hebrew to a backpacker - I've always wanted to speak to a tourist in their language, but I'm always too shy!

I've never kept a list like that myself, but it's a lovely idea, maybe I should - I've always enjoyed reading the missed connections (and the lonely hearts) section of one of the city magazines we get here.

Anna Emilia said...

Very sweet things.

Have a cam weekend!

Nadine said...

What a lovely post.
Your moment with the Israeli backpacker made me a bit tearful - in a good way!
I definitely feel inspired to keep a record of my missed connections/

Miss Bibliophile said...

I'm a big fan of Sophie's work. I actually met her very briefly at a publishing industry conference last year and she was gracious and lovely! Your own list of missed connections is lovely, too. I started one of those One Line a Day journals this year and now I'm wishing I had thought to use it as a place to record little moments like these. Great post!

C said...

I've always loved looking at Sophie's illustrations on her blog, but I think I'm going to buy the book now. You convinced me!

Your own Missed Connections are lovely to read–reminds me of all the wonderful strangers I've met in various places. That's a great writing exercise.

Patricia Villamil said...

How beautiful is this, and how she was able to turn it into a piece of work. This is very brilliant and her illustrations are lovely, I think I might go ahead and buy this book, since I dont have the time to read long novels (my favorite) I should rather be able to extract the same satisfaction of a missed connection story. Thanks for the introduction to this artist, I'm so inspired!

Jen said...

Oh. I love Sophie's work. Such sweet illustrations.

But Hila ... your Missed Connections made me so sad. I wanted to reach through the ether and give you a hug.

Next time? Please please act on your impulse. xo

Sally said...

I've always been intrigued by Missed Connections too...they even had a column in the local weekly in my small hometown. I feel like they were mostly about seeing people in grocery lines, haha. Also I've seen that painting from the video in NY subway cars, and it always caught my eye - but I didn't know Sophie had done it!

I feel like if anything, strangely, "missed connections" inspire anxiety in me - that I don't read them regularly, what if someone wrote one for me?! haha - or that maybe there are a few I should have written, sweet thank-yous like yours.

But instead I'll try to take comfort that, like you say, everyone around us is thinking, feeling, when it's so easy to zone out and forget the complicated humanity all around us. That good deeds are appreciated and should be cherished. (And one thing I always try to make sure and do is give compliments - such an easy way to make someone's day! :)

Kelly said...

How beautiful! I'm sure it's already been mentioned to death, but her work reminds me of Maira Kalman. This is the kind of book to leave out on the coffee table; everyone in my house would get something out of it. Thank you.

Jennifer said...

I've been following Sophie's Missed Connections project for a while, so I'm pleased to hear that you appreciate Sophie's work too! I think it's neat that you write down your own missed connections. (Thanks for sharing them with us, by the way! I couldn't help but swoon and giggle sympathetically at the one where the elderly man laid out his coat for you.) I'm now inspired to write down my own. I think it would be fun to look back one day and relive those little moments.

Katarina said...

Thank you for pointing me her way, such heart-warming work. And your stories, too :)

Amy said...

The missed connections (Sophie's illustrations, the posts on Craigslist, and your own notes) always make me feel closer to people. It's comforting to know that I'm not the only person who kicks myself for not giving a better thank you or engaging in conversation instead of shyly shrinking off. We are usually surrounded by people, at least in city life, and it's so easy to feel isolated and overwhelmed. Your notes remind me how far a compliment or kind gesture can go to making someone's day better, or at least memorable. Lately I've started telling every redhead I encounter that I love his or her hair (and I do!) My husband has red hair and through him I've become more aware that most redheads don't get a lot of positive comments about their appearance, so I try to actually say something instead of silently admiring.

angela said...

I love Sophie's illustrations! Your own missed connections were touching, random acts of kindness do exist!

Naomi Bulger said...

I feel a little... I don't know. I'm rather swept away. Like I've just emerged from a book that made me forget I was reading, or a movie I forgot I was watching. Both the illustrations and your little notes were so poignant, thoughtful. I want to comment properly and give you great thanks for this, but I am rather reluctant to leave the moment you created.

Chiara said...

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw your post: I've had Missed Connections on my bedtable for months, and this morning I decided to start reading it. JUST this morning! Isn't it... funny and fascinating? In some way, this is a Not-Missed connection!
By the way, a lovely post, as usual.
Kisses from Italy,
@clarissapuntod

If Jane said...

Thanks for the introduction ;)
Ah yes the random acts of kindness! Yours were sweet ;)

-A stranger on the street who told me I was beautiful and offered me chocolate. I shyly said no.

and the random acts of unkindess...that became kind.

-I would like to thank the stranger on the metro who thought we were playing rugby and therefore pushed with all his might twice! to push me off the metro at his stop. I'd like to say: you were one stop too early. But you allowed me to later get a gentle massage when I re-told the story to a friend. ;))

Susanna-Cole King said...

Oh gosh, I love this post. I mean, really, that seems like such a generic comment ("I love this post"), so I use it sparingly, but seriously, this post delighted me and of course, made me very thoughtful, and your missed connections (which I adored) jogged my memory about many of mine ... I hate that I'm so shy sometimes, People compliment me on my hair (what I didn't know growing up with short hair, is that having really long hair, like I have now, is apparently quite the conversation starter) and what I wear and so forth, quite a bit, and so often, I'll see other people wearing something I admire, or perhaps, a man with a very handsome beard or mustache, for instance, and I want to compliment them ... but I don't ... and I don't know why not, because people who take the time to say something sweet to me, well I am quite bashful about it, but sometimes it makes my day even, and I doubt people would be upset or rude (well, maybe occasionally, if they're strange) if I complimented them, in fact, most people would be happy ... so why don't I? I should change that, I really should.

Thank you for introducing me to Sophie's work, as well, as I wasn't familiar with it before.

Hope you're well. <3

Tracey said...

How lovely. I think about these kinds of little life connections quite often, and I'm always making notes about them.

I really must buy a copy of Sophie's book, it keeps popping up around the place. I have to say that I really loved reading your missed connections too Hila, you have such a wonderful way with words. :)

Laure said...

Great stuff! This draws are awesome ^^

Laure said...

*Pardon my english ^^'
I love your posts.

Amelia said...

This has been such a lovely read (I need to buy Missed Connections now). Lately I have been thinking about my own missed connections - although I try not to linger on some :)

B said...

This was an utterly charming post; sometimes it's easy to forget that crowds are made up of individual people. I am thinking that I definitely want to buy the book; it is based on a brilliant idea and looks so beautifully illustrated. Your own missed connections were wonderful to read. I'd like to start collecting a record of small kindnesses, after reading this.

odessa said...

I absolutely loved this post, Hila! I've also been writing about my connections, missed or otherwise. They are especially special when you're in transit.

And I loved your missed connections. Thank you for this! <3

See Hear Say said...

this is such an incredibly sweet post! i came across sophie's works before but i've never seen the video, very inspiring.

Dawn. said...

Wow what a lovely idea and what beautiful prints. Thanks for sharing her work and your own Missed Connections. I've always been intrigued by MC. I wonder how of them are actually successful in their goal.

Laure said...

Cette article est vraiment génial.
Je vais directement voir si ce livre est en vente chez moi.
J'adore ces illustration, cette ambiance.. waw, vraiment agréable.

Merci pour cette découverte, dés le matin c'est excellent! ^^

Hila said...

I love the comments here, and I'm so glad you guys enjoyed Sophie's work. If you buy the book, how lovely (and appropriate) would it be to read it on the bus or train? :)

p.s. Amy, that's wonderful. A keeper of a memory xx

Laure said...

Je viens de l'acheter en ligne ^^
Et vus le temps que je passe dans le metro et dans le train matin et soir.. il est clair que je le lirais comme il se doit!

xuan said...

This is so beautiful! I always felt missed connections were creepy (thanks craiglist), but this is just so wonderful.

http://what-if-illustrations.tumblr.com/

Ana said...

Thanks Hila for this post. This project is truly beautiful and soulful, I love it!

Hila said...

So glad you all like it, I adore this project too!

Kira said...

Thank you for introducing me to a very interesting artist! This is such a lovely idea I will immediately use myself. Such a lovely post, thank you yet again! ♥

xoxo