Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Comedy of Errors

Art Works: Minding Pennies by Kristy Guest

10 March 12 words: Art Works

"I want to document people’s disregard for small denominations of currency and to see how things change over the next decade"

If you’ve been out and about in town over the last year and have seen somebody crouching down taking photos of the floor, well... that was probably me. Since January 2011 I’ve been taking photos of all the coins I find on the streets because - before you think I’m completely crazy - I’m part way through a ten-year project.

Minding Pennies was born from a desire of mine to give to charity, but as a freelance artist my finances prevented me from doing so.  A couple of years ago I decided to start picking up all the pennies I found with the intention of donating them.  I was surprised with how quickly it added up, and decided that I also wanted to do something creative with the coins.

I come from a performance background (having trained as an actor and being part of The Gramophones Theatre Company) so I thought about creating some sort of performance with the coins, but realised I was making things too complicated and that taking photographs of coins found in situ would be beautifully simple. Every time I find a coin, I take a photo and make a note of where and when it was found. This information is then uploaded to the blog I set up for the project and the coin is put in the ‘Bank’.

Since the project began I have found money in Canada, the USA and various parts of the UK. It’s been fascinating documenting where all of these were found and seeing patterns slowly emerge. I want to document people’s disregard for small denominations of currency and to see how things change over the next decade. With the introduction of new ways to make purchases will we even be using coins and notes in ten years? Or will chip and pin have taken over completely?

Without a doubt, the task I’ve set myself is a challenging one. I have to leave early to get to places just in case I happen to find money on the way. I have, however, put some rules in place to make sure I don’t get into trouble or put myself in any danger.  For example, people often don’t take too kindly to having someone stop at a turnstile in the New York or London Underground to take a photo of a penny in the middle of rush hour. And people also don’t quite understand why someone may suddenly crouch down in the middle of a busy road. Saying that, the rules didn’t stop me from getting on the floor with a stick to fish a coin from the edge of the Grand Canyon.

For me, Minding Pennies really came to life when other people started getting involved. I currently have over twenty ‘penny minders’, as I like to call them, and every now and again I’ll receive a rather excited message informing me that somebody has found a penny. I love the excitement that can be raised by finding pennies and feel that if more people had that response then we’d develop an appreciation for small things which, in turn, could help to change the wasteful attitude that society seems to have.

When people are walking with me they are surprised at how I can spot money on the floor and insist that I’ve developed some sort of sixth sense. I think they're right, but I do believe that you find what you look for in life and think my project is a perfect example of this. So, if you find a penny, pick it up...and in a year’s time, like me, you could have over nine hundred of them.

We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now