Vernacular photography – often defined as “authorless”, but in reality, made by the same people who use it, for themselves or family/friends, or, alternatively, commercial but made directly for consumers (e.g. the Sears portrait service) – has been gaining a lot of attention in the past few years or decades. If you are a photographer yourself, you know the writings of Geoffrey Batchen, who was the engine of the research of that type of photography with his books, especially Each Wild Idea.
I have been working in that direction for some time now. The initial interest came from my artistic work, in which I used found photos (another key term), as well as my interest in the concept of memory and the archive used and interpreted in art photography. For example, that was the driving force behind Archive of Abandoned Dreams or The Museum of Innocence, but also of some other projects that I have been working on that I haven’t posted or talked about here.
However, although much of the attention of researchers of vernacular photography has been its aesthetics, little has been dedicated to its social existence. And it is important. Not only because it has been undergoing enormous changes in the last few years, but also because the interest of people to that kind of photography has been growing, as exemplified in its collecting. One of the most interesting phenomenon is the collecting of people who are not professionally related to photography of vernacular photos of other people – to whom they are not related personally. Have you noticed that prices of photos in antique stores has been growing lately? This is one of the reasons. The key is that these photos are (self) representing the daily life of the those depicted in them, made by or for themselves, and not meant for exhibition or publication, for example – yet even so, or perhaps because of that, their authenticity and essentiality makes them attractive.
I have been working on a study of how and why people collect personal photos to whom they don’t have a particular relationship, in which my focus is not the aesthetics, but the approach of this collecting. It has been fascinating so far to discover the different approaches, where people find those photos, what first piqued their interest, what draws them to certain photos and not others, and what they do with them, how they conserve them and, perhaps, why.
So, if you are one of those people who collect personal photos of others – from antique stores, abandoned houses, anywhere – I would love to ask you some questions! Would you please get in touch with me?
Thank you! 🙂
Hi … I’m not sure if this is too late with regard to the way your practice has developed but my partner and I collect a LARGE number of photographs and negatives of other people, mainly in collections if we can get them. It is also the basis for my Fine Art MA and a lot of the ideas you have are also of great interest to me. It would be great to talk to you further about your work.