Research Part 2 Project 1 The Artist as Curator


Artists have become increasingly interested in the use of the “Found Image”. The role of editing has never been more critical. As photographers we must find new strategies of working with the wealth of digital images which have been and are being spewed out today.

Joachim Schmid and Erik Kessels are two artists who work with and understand the photo archive. It is my challenge to study these artists and gain an understanding of how I can use the photo archive for my own benefit.

In the essay ‘Archive Noises’ in Fontcuberta, J. (2014) Pandora’s Camera – Phtogr@phy after Photography, London: MACK, Fontcuberta opens up some of his ideas about the importance of the archive of photography in the modern day.

Francois Arago presented the daguerreotype to the French Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris (August 1839) and stated that the invention would impinge on:

  • Perception
  • Memory

“It would apprehend what meets the eye and preserve what escapes the memory, by retaining visual information that deserves to be conserved.”

In the last quarter of the 20th century, photography was not about what you “took” but how it was presented. This is what led to the manipulation of found images to create art: to create an “aura”.

Joachin Schmid’s work is informed by a concern with visual ecology.

Schmid and Friche visited flea markets, second hand bookshops, looking for anonymous amateur snapshots which resembled those of the grand masters – Adams, Evans etc. reprocessing them and mounting them so they were indistinguishable.

Schmid encouraged recycling rather than producing an excessive proliferation of new images.

This work parallelled the work of Duchamp and the Dadaists.

The Archive Project

Schmid took banal amateur photographs and grouped them together, e.g. couples, children with a ball, mustachioed men, baseball players etc.

He used the photos to embody different ideas. He then gave one last chance to all the material which he had previously rejected.

Link 1: Interview: Sharon with Joachin Schmid

This interview followed a Tate conference on Vernacular Photography.

Schmid talked about collecting snapshots, looking for repetitive (recurring) patterns. To find repetitive patterns he needed stamina and good luck to find the right pictures. It was not a series of “Eureka” moments.

He refers to Italo Calvino’s “Adventures of a photographer” (which I have managed to find and print off the web). This is a superb essay by a non photographer, a gem of a reference hidden away. I have also read Calvino’s “Invisible Cities”, recommended by Peter Fraser last year. He is a source of inspiration and has assisted the “Flaneur” in me.

Schmid can relate to Calvino’s statement that photography leads to madness.

The Archiv Project was produced as a series of books and Schmid discovered that people’s attention span for books is much greater than for text on a computer (digital representation).

Other People’s Photographs Project generated more than 3000 photos. These were all shown in a book and this presentation method made it much easier for the viewer to look at the “whole” and give it adequate attention.

Schmid says “Wandering round looking for photos is more fun than scanning the web. It holds the interest for longer. But use of computer technology is more efficient and more effective”

We all take the same pictures and this works to Schmid’s advantage. In the future there will be too many photographers. He says “With higher levels of education in photography it will become more difficult to make a living out of the art.)

Link 2:  Photography as Urban Archaeology – The Practice of Joachim Schmid

“I am an artist because there is no other description of what I do”

Schmid created an “Anti Museum” of forgotten, lost and disused photographs – taken by the anonymous public. His work is curatorial and editorial and it is sometimes difficult to see where editorial selection ends and creative representation begins.

In one of his projects “Pictures From the Street”, he walked the streets for nearly 30 years searching for discarded, lost or torn photographs because of the mystery behind them. They reflect the role of photography played in everyday life. He sorted them by type and aesthetic approach in a “visual taxonomy of the mundane”.

He did the same exercise online (mainly Flickr) in his “Other People’s Photographs” project (2008 – 2011) which is where he produced 96 print – on – demand books.

In his photographic garbage survey project (1996 – 1997) he systematically walked pre arranged routes through seven cities collecting, preserving and documenting every piece of photographic garbage in his path:

  • Paris – 91 objects – 9 days
  • Sao Paulo – 83 objects – 8 days
  • Berlin – 43 objects – 6 days
  • Rotterdam – 28 objects – 6 days
  • Vigo, Spain – 23 objects – 5 days
  • Zurich – 12 objects – 4 days

He mapped each day’s route and noted details of each found photo such as location, date, position in the sequence of the day’s discoveries (a sort of urban archaeology).

He logged the type of photo in each city and therefore compared the cities (torn photos / polaroids / photo booth)

The project was an attempt to understand the flip side of photographic collection and preservation. This is another way to curate by setting limits on where we look for material.


“Now we’re a species of editors. We all recycle, clip and cut, remix and upload. We can make images do anything. All we need is an eye, a camera, a brain, a phone, a laptop, a scanner, a point of view. And when we’re not editing, we’re making”

Link 3: Corinne Vionnet

Today, the travelogue is less likely to be a tangible album found in our homes than it is an online directory of digital images. This gives a platform to collect the travel souvenirs via keyword search and use them for inspiration going forward.

I have worked on Corinne Vionnet’s ideas in part 1 coursework and my ideas at the moment for exercise 2.1 are to find on the internet a subject (not holiday tourist pictures) which is repetitive in the same way.



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