This recent release piques my interest:

Killed: Rejected Images of the Farm Security Administration prints 130 tri-toned black-and-white images scanned from negatives in the collection of the Library of Congress. Wiliam E. Jones’s book is the first to deal exclusively with the 35mm negatives that FSA director Roy Stryker killed with a hole punch during the early years of the project (1935-39). The book brings to light destroyed or defaced photographs by Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, John Vachon, and others; it also includes two essays by Jones discussing the images and possible reasons for their suppression.

You can search through the 175,000 Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives and pick out the punched prints yourself. Here’s some off just the first page.

In July, Foto8 reviewed the Punctured, a 5 minute film by the book’s author William E. Jones:

It was not so long ago that photographers and editors editing film would use a hole punch to indicate a selected frame, clipping a small half circle out of the edge of the frame by the sprocket holes where the frame number and film info had been burned into the emulsion during manufacturing.  Stryker was more ruthless with his hole punch, “killing” the work of his photographers by punching a hole directly through the negative image. Unsurprisingly, the photographers objected to this practice, which Stryker ended in 1939. Many of the punched negatives survive in the US Library of Congress FSA archives.

Punctured, Jones explained, is about the “Interface between image making and power…  what images authority gives us and what we do with them.” Jones’ effort is to unsettle those relationships and to this end Punctured is articulate in its explorations of the way that archives are constructed, of the FSA archive specifically as the product of Stryker’s judgments …


This all leaves me thinking of Lisa Oppenheim‘s Killed Negatives: After Walker Evans.

Lisa Oppenheim, from the project Killed Negatives: After Walker Evans

Carefully Aimed Darts points out the Etienne Chambaud also made use of the defaced FSA negs for the show A Brief History of the Twentieth Century

Installation shot, Etienne Chambaud: Personne, 2008

If only for the similarity between precision-cut and precision-painted holes I am left thinking of John Baldessari:

John Baldessari. Hitch-hiker (Splattered Blue) 1995. Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York © John Baldessari. Colour photograph, acrylic, maquette