What's in your bedroom?

Photos:  Olivia Howitt

What does your bedroom say about you? Olivia Howitt’s photographic project explores this most intimate of spaces

Like many good ideas, Olivia Howitt’s What’s in Your Bedroom? project came out of a conversation with her friend. “He told me about a girl he met at a friend’s shared house in Hackney – they were talking about bikes and she invited him to see her bedroom. She had bicycles filling every available space, on the floor and hanging from the ceiling.” Olivia was struck not only by the girl’s passion but that she only had one room to house it. “I started to think about what goes on in people’s bedrooms, other than the obvious...”

Her project is a visual demonstration of just how many things are going on in people’s bedrooms, from side projects to main jobs, and how even the smallest of spaces can be used in a creative way. As Olivia describes them, they are “small museums exhibiting moments of their inhabitant’s life in objects”, each capable of telling “short stories about our lives”.


While our bedrooms became our realms as teenagers (as in the marvellous example of Ellie May O’Sullivan, pictured) that experience is prolonged in London, where Olivia has shot the majority of the rooms, where housing costs are likely to mean shared accommodation well into your twenties at the very least. That was Olivia’s experience when she moved to the capital from Manchester, going from her own house to “all of a sudden, my whole world contained within my bedroom.”

Across the array of tastes and styles of bedrooms Olivia has had the privilege to photograph, there’s a common link, and one that’s not linked to their inhabitant’s taste or budget. “For me they have soul. I’d always want my bedroom to have soul”.



See more of Olivia's bedrooms at and @whatsinyourbedroom. You can snoop inside three more bedrooms in issue 40 of Oh Comely, out now


Ellie May O’Sullivan, student

“My bedroom is an area that is completely my own, so it’s a place where I can relax, listen to music, draw and express myself. My mum and sister have always collected things and I guess I’ve followed the family trend. There are so many things I love in my room and it’s so hard to pick a favourite – in a fire, I’d probably be burnt to a crisp trying to decide what to save – but definitely one is my small vintage Steiff penguin, Peggy, who’s a bit tatty round the edges but is really cute and fuzzy.”

Gobbles Loves You

Photo: Andrea Allan, from Gobbles Loves You

Photo: Andrea Allan, from Gobbles Loves You

Artist Andrea Allan introduces us to her photographic project, Gobbles Loves You, inspired by the written correspondence between two lovers. 

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I’m an artist working with photography, text, sound, installation and artists’ book. Through my work I like to explore the real and the imaginary, in an attempt to better understand the links between our past, present and future. Combining photography with the written word, I weave past narratives into the fabric of present places, casting old social and political understandings in a contemporary light.

And could you introduce us to Chambre and Margaret? 

Edward Chambre Hardman was a Liverpool portrait photographer who documented many of the city’s most prominent figures from 1930s through to the 1950s.  It was during the mid-twenties that he employed 17-year-old Margaret Mills as an assistant. After a few years she decided to train as a photographer in Scotland, thus leaving Hardman, and the point at which their letter writing began.  They had pet names for each other – Gobbles for Hardman and Pearl for Margaret.

How did you discover these letters? 

I was studying for my MA at Manchester School of Art at the time. One of the modules was to work with archives, specifically looking at Hardman’s legacy. The most natural place people started was with their house, which has been kept the same since they died. I wanted to delve a little bit more into their relationship, and to find out what type of people they were – what better way than personal letters.

Was there anything unexpected about these letters?

One of the first things that struck me about the letters, and why I spent so much time reading through them all, was the way in which they wrote to each other. Business was nearly always discussed, a shared passion, that they could discuss in detail. Then the narrative would switch entirely, sometimes mid sentence, to how they missed each other. These parts were always written in the third person, and they referred to each other by their pet names.

There were some pressed flowers between some of the pages; the pollen had stained the coarse paper yellow after all these years. Telegrams had also been kept, these more than anything show how technology can never replace the value of analogue. Text cut into strips, pasted onto starched white sheets, stamped with the telegram office details, draw entirely away from the intimacy that a letter can hold. Even pet names became confused – instead of Gobbles someone mistyped and put “Gopples”.

How did you select what line of each letter you’d reveal? 

I’ve worked as a document controller and thought that I would draw on my experiences of working with and organising copious amounts of information by imposing guidelines on the way that I photographed the letters. I decided to show only one line of text (although I broke this rule a few times), to only use the back of the envelope so that you couldn’t see the postage stamp for date or location. The text had to be either on the top, bottom or either side of the crease in the middle of the letter so that I didn’t damage the letters in anyway. In the end it turned out a lot of Margaret’s letters were in plastic dividers and could not be removed, making the narrative biased towards him. 

What was it like to read through correspondence originally intended for each other’s eyes only?

For most of the letters it was interesting to see how being a photographer has changed over the decades, and how some elements are very much the same. The only moments when I got embarrassed was when reading through lines like “he wants to whisper something into her ear...” and I won’t finish that sentence!

The tongue twister makes me laugh, and there’s a section where Hardman is off walking in Scotland with friends and complains that a woman in the group can’t manage the mountains, but he has no doubt that his Pearl would have been straight up without any fuss at all.

Are you a letter writer yourself? Did this project shift your ideas about them at all?

In my early 20s I used to write all the time, and then I’m ashamed to say, I seemed to lapse. After doing this project I started reading up on letter writing and came across a TED talk given by Hannah Brencher. Brencher wrote love letters and left them all over the city for strangers to find, eventually turning it into a global initiative ‘The World Needs More Love Letters’, which posts handwritten letters to those in need of human kindness. After creating these photographs and reading up about this initiative, I’ve felt the need to get to know people's handwriting again, to know that someone’s mused over what paper to use, to create that very personal, intimate connection, something technology will never be able to replicate.  

You can see more of Andrea's work on her website, and for more Letters written from the heart, pick up a copy of Oh Comely issue 32


Capturing the atmosphere

Meet Maya Beano, the photographer behind our main homepage and social media cover images this month. We were so taken with her haunting 35mm film photos after printing one of her pictures in issue 32 that thought we'd quiz her about her inspiration and process.

When did you first fall in love with film photography? 

I've always really loved cameras, but it was only a couple of years ago that I properly got into it. After shooting with a digital camera for five years, I decided to take up something different. 

What is it about 35mm film in particular that you love?

My friend's room was where I shot my first full 35mm film roll – a group of us were just sitting around eating chocolate on a chilly autumn day. I remember being enamoured with how real the photos from that day felt. There was something very therapeutic about that tangibility. I also see 35mm film as a stepping-stone towards exploring other film formats, like instant and medium format, which I will hopefully have time to do one day. 

What advice do you have for people who want to start exploring film photography?

I would encourage everyone not to shy away from experimenting. I think it's important to realise that no matter how good you get at film photography, it can still be full of surprises. Also, photograph what you love. 

What's been your proudest creative moment so far?

It's satisfying when I look back at a photo that captures the exact emotions I was feeling at the time of the shoot. I try to do this with all of my series, and when it works, it is a proud moment. 

What's your favourite photograph you've taken? (Can we see it?!)

Oh this is a difficult question, because I feel attached to different photos at different stages of my life. Right now, I'd go for the image above, that I took of my brother just before his birthday last December – it was the perfect winter sunset and the moon had just come out. I'm a big fan of peaceful moments. I could always do with more of those! 

Who inspires you?

Friends, family, kind people. Everyone I love.

What are you working on at the moment?

I've taken photos during a couple of road trips this summer, so I'm currently busy with those. Most of these were taken in Northern Ireland where my best friend grew up. I'm also going to the US later this year for both work and leisure, so I plan to make the most of my time there photography-wise.

Maya Beano is a UK-based photographer. You can see more of her photography series at, and her wanderings in film at