Despite competition from a host of digital replacements, the humble pencil continues to offer — in this writer's opinion — a physical connection from mind to paper irreplaceable by modern gizmos. For hundreds of years, this simple combination of graphite and wood has helped communicate works of art, words of defiance, world-changing ideas, and, more recently, filled in bubbles on a Scantron. I'll always love you, #2.

Photographers Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney, in a unique and creative effort to capture the beauty of this treasured writing instrument, went about capturing photographs of favorite pencils from 50 of the world's top creative artists. Sir Paul Smith, David Bailey, Tim Walker, Posy Simmonds, Dave Eggers, Julia Quenzler and James Dyson are just a few of the men and women included in the new exhibition "The Secret Life of the Pencil," which opened in London and will also make a global tour.

"This photographic project seeks to savour the use of pencils – documenting them in stunning detail, and thereby showing the secrets of their use and revealing an insight into their users: professionals who have defined themselves and their craft with the help of the modest stylus," the photographers write on their site.

All of the photos, as well as a few select pencils from famous hands, will go up for auction on May 19 with proceeds benefiting Children in Crisis. Check out a recent TEDx talk by Alex Hammond about the project.

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

World's creative minds reveal the pencils behind their greatest works
Photographers Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney zoom in on the favorite writing instruments of 50 artists in 'The Secret Life of The Pencil.'