Jozef’s fascination with trolleys started in 1994 when he moved to the US to study an MBA, and in his spare time took up a photography course. Growing up in communist and post-communist Czechoslovakia he experienced over years shoppers preserving any branded plastic bags from the West and proudly carrying goods in them.  Plastic was beautifully fantastic and the whole East Block jumped in the same fantasy wagon.  NYC where he was based was a very different place, 5th Ave leather Chanel mixed with Lower East End trolleys.  To his surprise it was not just the American way of wheeling bags, London is dotted with them with even higher frequency. And above all in East London council estates. He started to chase the pushers years ago and the collection is expanding. The diversity of the trolleys is limitless and there is always an added surprise, either the person that owns it, the model, shape, pattern or a situation he finds it in. Never assume an old hunched lady of Hoxton owns it. Better and sexier models are in the pipeline for new abnormal times to make a trolley absolutely normal!

Jozef Ondko

The phone camera allows him to snap away unnoticed by his subjects. He feels once a person knows they are having their photo taken, a certain amount of posing and therefore a lack of a natural feel messes the picture up, as cheeks are sucked in, lips draw up into pout mode, or sometimes, people just give him the finger. 

Shopping trolleys, once largely favoured by women of a certain age, girth, and spinal crookedness, have become slightly more mainstream. There are more of them about. No one knows exactly why this is, but it might be the triumph of practicality over a fear of looking “old.” 

jonoko notes that the four-wheel pushing model, as opposed to the two-wheel pulling model, seems more purposeful, in that pushing forward feels more proactive, than dragging something behind.  He also notices that people are sometimes either unwittingly or absolutely colour coordinating their shopping outfits with their trolleys. So, the trolley becomes not only a shopping receptacle and-or a walking aide, but also, a fashion statement. No Hipster irony there: a black trolley does look good with a red coat and hat. 

One marked feature of jonoko’s photos is the almost architectural structure of a person and his or her trolley, the lines that are configured and the shapes that are made,  the shadows that are cast There is still the cervical spine stoop of the elderly, which prompts the question, did the trolley cause the stoop, or do the stooped gravitate towards the trolley to stay upright? Though a pronounced stoop can signal hopelessness, these are not photos of despair. People may be stooped, and frail, and slow, but they move with determination and purpose, to and from the shops.   

Indeed, in some of the photos, it is hard to tell where the person stops and the trolley begins, so joined up are the two, pushing through the street markets of austerity London and more recently, Covid London.  The message seems clear:  We are not rich, and our society is in the grips of a terrible pandemic, but we must buy things, and put them in our trolleys.

Michele Kirsch

Michele Kirsch is a writer and art lover based in Hoxton, London. She is the author of CLEAN, an autobiography which won the Royal Society of Literature Christopher Bland Prize in 2020.