CARL BRADEN

I was surfing through the Wisconsin Historical Archives, like you do, and came across the above image of Carl Braden.

Braden and his wife Anne Braden were journalists-turned-activists who were part of the union movements and later the radical interracial left of the 40s and 50s. The Braden’s bought a house on behalf of the Wade family, their African American friends in suburban Louisville, Kentucky. When neighbours found out a Black family had moved in they burnt a cross outside the house and went after the Braden’s. Carl was charged with sedition in what is known as the Wade Case. Carl was sentenced to 15 years and served 8 months, eventually paying $40,000 to get out.

The Anne Braden Institute (ABI) now operates out of the University of Louisville. The ABI has a Flickr stream of scenes from her full life.

KARL BADEN

Karl Baden has chosen to put himself in the picture everyday for 24 years. Somewhere he has set up a self-imposed mugshot identification room. All these can be seen at his website Every Day.

It’s worth noting that Baden and Noah Kalina are the original and best for these vaguely masturbatory, mirrored versions of themselves in time-lapse. Others include a girl with a nice set of scarves, two dudes (one and two) with beard-growing missions, a guy with an 800 day commitment and Homer Simpson.

There is also Diego Goldberg who self-documents he and his family once a year, every year on the 17th June.

Baden has established a unique set of data for a limited case study in visual anthropology. The date runs like an I.D. number at the bottom of his shots.

As Baden describes the project, he removes emotion and variables from the photography, just as police or criminal justice photographers do for mugshots:

Every Day is performed within a set of guidelines. […] Reserved exclusively for this procedure are a single camera, tripod, strobe and white backdrop. […] I use the same type of high-resolution film (Kodak Technical Pan until it was discontinued in 2007, Ilford Pan F since then) and the same strobe lighting. The camera is always set and focused at the same distance. When taking the picture, I try to center myself in the frame, maintain a neutral expression and look straight into the lens.

Baden lists the key tenets of Every Day to be mortality; incremental change; obsession (its relation to both the psyche and art-making); and the difference between attempting to be perfect, and being human. I’ll grant him those things, but I also wonder is does the project not feel like a sentence?

And my question to you, readers, is what should we make of this type of project? It could be just inventive fun or it might be one of the most present-minded approaches to photography there is? I can’t decide.

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