Anonymous Vintage Snapshot (2015)

24 Giclee prints with text on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm  40″x30″

Somewhere along the way I forgot. I forgot the simple wonder of what it feels like to open an envelope of random images – pulled from albums, falling into our laps from the distant past – and to hold these diminutive scalloped edged, creased, scratched, highly specific and intimate pieces of paper in one’s hand. I forgot just how small they are. I forgot how they smell. I flip each photograph automatically, looking for clues.

These images, all taken by anonymous photographers, are from a French online vintage print specialist with an outlet on Ebay, a site predicated on a very particular form of classification; in this case, the listing of specific components or features contained within the image that determine the market value of the amateur snapshot.

I soon noticed a number of strange things. Take, for example, the value afforded a photograph with a car in it. For a movie, all you might need is a gun and a girl. But, in a photograph, add a girl getting out of a car to an otherwise unremarkable image, and the value rises. Unidentified women in these images, unless they could be classified as a ‘pin-up’, seem to accrue value, or vanish from the description altogether, depending on what they had stood next to. I noticed, more generally, that photographs that were composed seemed to win out over those that were more immediate; though the latter, as sociologists tell us, like any freeze-frame of disarray, provide more ‘information’. Photographs from the same roll and of the same subject had different saleable components. Photographs with ‘mistakes’ (that often reminded me of styles, composition or subjects associated with canonical photographers) acquired a novelty value. 

I became as interested in the listings as in the images themselves; resulting in many outstanding, beautiful or intriguing photographs being dropped from my final selection. Each of the snapshots chosen, in one way or another, stand as a counterpoint to the concision, emphasis, economy or utility of their current designation. With what is now thankfully a backward glance at that old, ambitious disenchantment with the photographic document I say, in each of the photographs that remain, There Are Things Here Not Seen in this Classification.     JDB