Archive for the ‘Vernacular/Found Photography’ Category

jocko_weylandSo I missed this, but artist/writer Jocko Weyland had a show earlier this Spring at Kerry Schuss in NYC called “Almost News.” Wayland works for the AP NewsPhoto Library, which gives him access to a torrent of images going back 100 years.  Many of them, detached from their original news story, beg for explanation.

The catalog copy for the show riffs on the AP archives filing system and the curiously poetic categories used to tame the often banal subject matter:

“Rolling open with a satisfying whoosh, the solid overstuffed drawers would reveal upright cardboard files whose condition ranged from crispy brand new to disintegrating scraps. “Schauffler, Jr;, William G. Col. Airforce D E A D 10/22/51,” for instance, on the Personality side, or on the Subject side: “Toys: Historical,” “Models: Ships and Submarines,” or “Portugal: Industry: Misc.” There were “Hands,” “Magicians and Mind Readers,” “Brushes,” and “Monocycles.” Everything was broken down into a thousand, a hundred thousand, a million different categories, subgroups, subsets, and variations. There were wild unfulfilled notions that had been photographed in the planning, the making, the testing, or the aftermath, curious pursuits, causes, philosophies, social issues, ideas, and adventures never dreamed of.”

The show was laid out with photos streaming in bands along the gallery wall — like racing stripes or lines on a highway.

There was a catalog published with the show, though I’m not sure if it’s still available.

I like the image “Stencil Lips” — for those moments when your hands just aren’t steady.


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In her unsettling photo collages Martha Rosler combines domestic images with snapshots of war. 60s housewives pull the blinds back on soldiers in trenches while teenagers with cell phones yammer as explosions go off behind them. The New York Times recently published a video slide show of her work.

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Abner Nolan takes old found negatives and reprints them. There’s not a lot of his work online, but he did do a limited edition book with Trillium called American Negatives which looks like it might be out of print. He will have another limited edition coming out in the next year with These Birds Walk, a photo book subscription series out of Oakland.

Actually, this just in. Todd Wemmer over at Lost and Found Photos stumbled upon a collection of Nolan’s found meat photos in Issue 2 of Meat Paper, a great foodie journal about the “meat zeitgeist.”

And while you’re visiting Lost and Found Photos, take a look around. It’s one of the best resources for found photography.

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Discovered this genius of a site by way of the blog “It’s Nice That.”

The Lion publishes one found photo a day accompanied by a song. The owner Arian Behzadi describes it simply as: “For when a song fits a picture or when a picture fits a song.”

Found photos invite us to dream up narratives and giving them a soundtrack is the perfect way to paint immediately and without words a mood and a story. Schoolgirls skip rope caught in mid-air to the hopping beat of Port O’Brien’s “I Woke Up Today.” The view from a train window unreels to the slow melancholy of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”

This image of two teens dancing pairs up with David Bowie’s “Heroes.” The lyrics “I will be king and you will be queen…just for one day” seems to fit this photo perfectly—two awkward teens frozen in a dance move, eyes locked, goofy and ecstatic.

New snapshots and new music pretty much every day. You have to open the link to the song in a new window.

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We tend to think of found photos as existing solely in the physical world, pieces of paper from the past covered with chemical emulsion and unknown faces, but the Internet opens up a whole new universe of vernacular photography where the images are less tangible, more ephemeral and free from the bonds of ownership. It’s a vast community-owned pool of pictures.

Sites are springing up that recognize this. As Found is an online gallery that curates groups of photos around themes. This image is from a group called Presidential runner-ups—a sad collection of all the also-rans in US history harvested from the Web. Other sets include handshakes, mechanical parts, albinos. Humor runs through all of these with a chuckle at our own banality. As the owners of the site declare: “Finding is creating.” Recognizing a pattern and naming it gives these images a previously unowned significance.

And take a look at Many Same and Secretly Creepy, too.

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Salvadoran artist Victor Cartagena’s latest installation, Invisible Nation, fills the walls of Galeria de la Raza with swarms of official Latin American ID photos, many of them passport pictures from the 70s and 80s, thousands of nameless faces that impress with sheer numbers, but also make it seem necessary to look more closely at each of these singular individuals and imagine their story.

For Cartagena, these masses are the reality of immigration so often forgotten in political discussion. Faced with this tidal movement of lives across borders, he insists that identities must be made out within the crowd.

Images are multiplied throughout the gallery. Video loops of faces play on the walls. Armies of photos are tacked with sewing pins to one broad expanse. Boxes covered in brown butcher paper sit in various corners of the gallery looking like so many drug bundles. The front of each package carries someone’s photo, as if all of these lives are parcels to be trafficked.

Cartagena turns tea bags into gauzy envelopes, wrapping each photo in a cottony haze. He then gathers these packets into bunches of 10 or 20 and hangs them from the gallery ceiling. The immediate impression is one of weight, a forest of ponderous hanging cords. A barely audible whisper emanates from somewhere overhead. I don’t speak Spanish, but the few words I can make out are “tristeza más tristeza.” Sadness more sadness.

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cassandra_jones.jpgCassandra C. Jones weaves mundane found photos into intricate floral tapestries. She takes images of cheerleaders in mid-cheer, hands and legs flying out in a whirlwind of exuberant gestures, and diffuses all of that overeager, adolescent energy into beautiful pinwheels of color and form. It takes a close inspection to see the details of what at first just looks like beautiful wallpaper.

In another series, she re-imagines an icon of kitsch—the pink lawn flamingo—into what appears to be exotic tropical orchids.

She’s also created what she calls snap motion re-animations, flipbooks really, for which she gathers hundreds of clichéd postcard images—sunsets, moons, soaring birds—then transforms them into stop-motion animations where suns and moons rise and set and birds take flight.

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