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The Depository Of Unwanted Photographs

In the summer of 2013, I attempted to temporarily get out of my prison-photo-bubble and find out what people loved about photographs by asking them which of theirs they loved the least. Which did they wish to condemn to the trash-bin of history?

For two long weekends at Photoville, a couple of volunteers and I took submissions of embarrassing, forgetful, incriminating and emotionally-burdensome images. The Depository Of Unwanted Photographs (TDOUP) was born. Comprised of a little over 200 images, TDOUP has been in permanent storage over the intervening 5-and-a-half years. Well, it’s going to get a public run out.

TDOUP is part of The Past is Prologue: Vernacular Photography, Pop Photographica and the Road to Selfie Culture, showing at Art Yard in Frenchtown, NJ from April 27th-July 28th. The Past is Prologue traces the evolution of everyday photography from the late 19th century to Instagram.

The collections and works “explore a beguiling terrain comprised of unauthored and found photographs, and commercial objects and images divorced from their original contexts” including discarded works, photo booth portraiture, family albums, newspaper archive press prints, industrial catalogues, and more. From the collections of Pete Brook, W.M. Hunt, Daile Kaplan, Nigel Poor and Cynthia Rubin. Featuring the works of Marcia Lippman and Cassandra Zampini.

The opening reception is Saturday, April 27th, 6-8pm. I’ll be there.

 

More about ‘The Depository Of Unwanted Photographs’

When asked to name a single image they absolutely treasure, people usually don’t hesitate: a snap of their children, a family Polaroid, or a formal portrait from precious life event, for example. “What is your most beloved photo?” is a common question. “What is your worst photo?”, on the other hand, is a near-perverse inquiry.

If we’re looking for good photography, we’ll find plenty in photobooks, galleries and publications, but where do we find a legitimate and well-researched presentation of bad photography? Does our discussion of what is good not also rely on a shared knowledge of what is bad, unwanted and unloved?

TDOUP was built on a belief that vernacular photos and stories are as relevant as the stories attached to news-photo-exclusives and famous documentary images. People’s stories are central to conversation about how we consume and use photography. We create and circulate billions of images every day and we constantly employ choices (consciously and subconsciously) to share or pass over images. If we accept the mantra that “We are all photographers” then aren’t we all photo-editors too?

 

There might be many images any individual would want to trash, but in asking people to choose only one, TDOUP urges people to think about the value system they’ve written for their own photographs. In choosing one photo for the great big dustbin of history, TDOUP contributors can meditate on their actions as image-makers and as “editors”.

From serious concerns to exorcism of the frivolous, TDOUP distills our different experiences and priorities—a portrait of a man who’s death spurred the only time a daughter saw her father cry; an engagement ring from a union that never materialized; photos of family abusers follow those of rancid chocolate; bad pics of the moon or the street; blurry photos of friends; the last photo before alcohol-eradicated memory took hold; Polaroids with emotional burden too heavy to carry; embarrassing clichés, cringeworthy selfies; photos of an IVF clinic and of the pogo-stick world record; accidental but beautiful prints made by misfiring processors; haunting images of soon-to-die parents; and a photo from the crowd of the 2013 Boston Marathon hours before the terror attack at the finish line. The interrelation of the images is as unpredictable as the motives for their original submission.

The Depository Of Unwanted Photographs is an unpredictable interrogation of quality that crucially is made by the public, not by the dominant voices of those in the media or culture industries. Which single photograph would you state, on the record, as unwanted?

More about ‘The Past Is Prologue’

Daile Kaplan’s collection of photographic textiles represent one facet of her pioneering work in the creation of a category known as Pop Photographica, representing a range of functional, decorative and commercial objects, from coffee cans to funereal fans emblazoned with images of the deceased. The costume works from her collection in this show range from high fashion dresses to low fashion pajamas. Kaplan is Vice President of Swann Galleries in New York, and an expert appraiser of photography for the Antiques Road Show.

W.M. Hunt’s collection of press prints from late 19th century and early 20th century newspaper illustrations are drawn from his Collection Dancing Bear and Collection Blind Pirate: the former, “magical heart stopping images of people in which their eyes are obscured” and the latter, American Groups before 1950. This is the first time that Hunt, a respected and prolific collector and writer in the field, has drawn from both for an exhibition.

The artist and photographer Marcia Lippman’s installation is a meditation in found images about her life-long search for an elusive biological mother. Born in an era when adopted children were denied access to their own biographical information, Lippman’s quest has been a driving force behind her artistic practice. A short film by Elsa Mora about Lippman’s process accompanies the work. Marcia Lippman is a photographer, a teacher, a traveler, a collector, and a storyteller. Much of her work for four decades has explored the passage and residues of time along with the ephemeral nature of memory.

Nigel Poor is a photographer and co-founder of the San Quentin prison-based podcast Ear Hustle. In the course of her research she happened on a trove of period untitled photographs from inside San Quentin taken in the 1960s and 70s. These arresting images illuminate a world that remains hidden from view to this day.

Curator, lecturer and collector Cynthia Rubin’s collection of 19th century advertising ladies features images of women in 19th century bustles adorned with everyday objects from carpenter’s levels, bakery products and chain mail. Before the advent of sandwich boards or electronic media, women dressed in such Dr. Seussian outfits circulated the commercial districts of their towns promoting their employer’s wares.

United Photo Industries and Pete Brook created and curated The Depository of Unwanted Photographs, a crowdsourced archive of images and stories. Visitors are invited to add to the collection by donating unwanted photographs. Artist Cassandra Zampini has created a video installation representing one second of one hashtag of videos on Instagram.

Other components of the exhibition include:
A sewn timeline of vernacular images starting in the 1920s and leading to the present.
A translucent wall constructed of illuminated x-rays from the 1930s by Elsa Mora.
A Paper Moon photobooth redux. Steve Maiorano invites you to sit for a portrait while floating on a friendly moon, as was done in the 1920s and 1930s.
A rare photo album documenting a year in the life of a nine-year-old girl in 1939, palpably beloved by her family.
Hands on stereopticons and three dimensional historical photographs.

 

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macindoe

Susan Stellin and Graham MacIndoe are raising money to fund the exhibition of their project American Exile at Photoville this autumn.

DONATE TO AMERICAN EXILE HERE

American Exile is a series of photographs and interviews documenting the stories of immigrants who have been ordered deported from the United States, as well as their family members – often, American citizens – who suffer the consequences of the harsh punishment and are sometimes forever separated from a parent or partner transported to foreign lands.

These are people who, ostensibly, have — just as you or I — lived, worked and paid taxes in the U.S. for extended periods. Bar fights that occurred 20 years ago, Visa paperwork deadlines missed, and other minor matters have sometimes led to deportation.

The tumorous growth America’s prison industrial complex goes back four decades whereas the focus of Graham and Susan’s work — the establishment of an extended archipelago of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities — is a much more recent, post 9/11 phenomenon. It is utterly contemporary and it meets the desperate need for journalism that probes ICE procedures.

DONATE TO AMERICAN EXILE HERE

MacIndoe spent five months in immigration detention in 2010, facing deportation because of a misdemeanor conviction – despite living in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident since 1999. After winning his case, he and Susan began gathering stories of families caught up in deportation proceedings, including asylum seekers, green card holders, and immigrants trapped in the bureaucracy of adjusting a visa.

I love Graham and Susan. They have a very comfortable couch. We’ve been friends for several years. Susan has a keen sense of justice and nous for a story and the will to bend an industry to our needs, not its. Graham is an addict who got clean, a street shooter, an artist, a great teacher (by all accounts) and a bit of a curmudgeon for all the right reasons.

DONATE TO AMERICAN EXILE HERE

Iris-&-Philippe copy

BIOGRAPHIES

Graham MacIndoe is a photographer and an adjunct professor of photography at Parsons The New School in New York City. Born in Scotland, he received a master’s degree in photography from the Royal College of Art in London and has shot editorial and advertising campaigns worldwide. He is represented by Little Big Man Gallery in Los Angeles, and his work is in many public and private collections. Follow Graham on Instagram and Twitter.

Susan Stellin has been a freelance reporter since 2000, contributing articles to The New York Times, New York, The Guardian, TheAtlantic.com and many other newspapers and magazines. She has worked as an editor at The New York Times and is a graduate of Stanford University.

In 2014, Susan and Graham were awarded a fellowship from the Alicia Patterson Foundation for their project, American Exile, and are collaborating on a joint memoir that will be published by Random House (Ballantine) in 2016.

DONATE TO AMERICAN EXILE HERE

ELKINS_14of38

14/38 (Not The Man I Once Was) © Amy Elkins, from the series Black Is The Day, Black Is The Night

Cruel and Unusual, the 2012 exhibition of photographs from prisons, co-curated by Hester Keijser and I is on the move.

Originally commissioned and debuted at Noorderlicht in the Netherlands [ 1,  2  &  3 ], Cruel and Unusual has since been to Amsterdam and Photoville in New York [ 1,  2  &  3 ].

In 2013, continuing its journey, Cruel and Unusual will travel to Sydney, Australia for the Reportage Photography Festival, May 24th – June 13th. It was selected by Photoville as one of three exhibits. To be shown alongside Russell Frederick’s Dying Breed: Photos of Bedford Stuyvesant and Bruce Gilden/Magnum Foundation’s No Place Like Home: Foreclosures in America.

As one presentation ends, another begins. Cruel and Unusual travels to the Sirius Art Center in Cobh, Ireland. On view from June 13th – July 22nd. Hester will be doing a talk at the reception on June 22nd at 2pm.

I’m really happy to see the exhibition live on, and grateful to those who are making it happen.

Special thanks to Peg Amison at Sirius Arts Center, to Sam Barzilay at Photoville, Olaf and the team at Noorderlicht for their ongoing support.

Jon Lowenstein

This is the third and final post about Photoville. We’ve had the beginning, the middle and so now, the end.

Of the two dozen photographers in the show, only three had actual objects (Sye Williams’ darkroom prints, Jane Lindsay’s bottle caps and Deborah Luster’s tintypes). Given the cost and hassle of shipping, it was decided that the re-used Noorderlicht exhibition prints would not be returned.

I was given instructions to destroy all prints.

It occurs to me that a lot of people don’t talk about this aspect of contemporary exhibition-making. It’s not really sad to see them go, because they never belonged to anyone. They only belonged to the show. And besides, knowing they were to be destroyed, I put most of them up with double sided sticky tape, so there was no preserving them after that ultra-adhesive abuse anyway.  Super-strong magnets are hardly kind to bare prints either!

We do plan to travel Cruel and Unusual (make Hester, Noorderlicht and I an offer!) and as such we’ll see shiny versions printed again.

Until then, think on these images of photogaeddon, wanton destruction and image massacre.

Araminta de Clermont

Stephen Tourlentes

Jenn Ackerman

Steve Davis

Richard Ross

Jeff Barnett-Winsby

Tim Gruber

Yana Payusova

Lori Waselchuk

Joseph Rodriguez

Adam Shemper

Sean Kernan

Marilyn Suriani

Scott Houston

Lloyd Degrane

Harvey Finkle

Lizzie Sadin

Nathalie Mohadjer

Brenda Ann Kenneally

Alyse Emdur

Brazil’s Polinters

This past weekend, I met several staff members from the Open Society Institute’s Documentary Photography Project. Wyatt Gallery’s Tent Life: Haiti, exhibited at Photoville, is work supported by the Documentary Photography Project.

“The photographs are testament to the strength and dignity of the Haitian community after the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake,” writes Amy Yenkin, director of the Documentary Photography Project

OSI also partly-funded the Magnum Foundation’s work Bruce Gilden’s No Place Like Home: Foreclosures in America and Sim Chi Yin’s Rat Tribe in an overarching initiative exploring of the idea of ‘Home.’ Photoville details here.

I’ll talk more about Photoville and those connections later, but here I want to bring your attention to OSI’s initiative that goes beyond photography specifically. OSI is running the Global Campaign for Pretrial Justice.

“Every year some 10 million people around the world spend time locked up in prison cells and detention centers while they await a court appearance. Many will end up spending months or even years behind bars without ever seeing a judge,” reports OSI.

Pretrial detention is something I’ve concerned myself with before, for example in promoting Nathalie Mohadjer’s photography.

OSI has produced two reports: “The Socioeconomic Impact of Pretrial Detention” and “Pretrial Detention and Torture: Why Pretrial Detainees Face the Greatest Risk,” both argue a reduction in excessive use of pretrial incarceration and to save costs to governments and communities.

In conjunction with the reports, OSI has produced four videos about those who’ve suffered loss of liberty or loss of family in unaccountable systems. The photos are by Ed Kashi. The audio by Rob Rosenthal. (Ed Kashi also made the bio pics for the Documentary Photography Project staff!)

I was surprised by the incredibly low Youtube viewing numbers – from as low as 60 to less than 300. I hope this is due only to the fact that the videos have been embedded on sites and have in fact been viewed many more times in the last month than just the few hundred reported on the individual Youtube pages.

OSI is also a massive (much larger) foundation than I ever knew. 400+ employees in New York and more than 2,000 worldwide. It produces campaigns at such a rate that I expect many get lost in the relentless roll out. Here, I hope I can do my bit; I encourage you to watch these dispatches.

Vinthenga’s Story

Benson’s Story

Deize & Indaiá Stories

Follow OSI’s program about pretrial justice on Twitter: @PretrialJustice

It was 75 degrees Fahrenheit at 7:30am as I stepped out the Delta Airlines terminal at JFK. I sweated my way through the subway to pick up a friend’s bike, on which I would only sweat more.

83 degrees.

Cycling down to Brooklyn Bridge Park would have been more enjoyable had I cleaned off the excess degreaser I’d applied to the chain and sprockets; the brakes were less responsive with every heaving, muggy second that passed.

Cruel and Unusual is to be inside two 40 foot containers slap-bang-wallop in the middle of the Photoville grounds. As installers and photographers busied themselves hanging work, moving hardware and swilling gallons of water, I sat in one of Noorderlicht’s two empty containers. FedEx says the work will be here by 3pm Thursday “at the latest.”

The plans, PDFed by Marco weeks ago, were open in a window on my laptop. A virtual reminder of the install not getting done.

It’s not actually a huge issue; we’ll just move quicker tomorrow.

84 degrees.

After milling around a bit and checking out the other exhibitors’ works, I decide to take some photos. If inaction is the order of the day, then I might as well blog about it.

Inside the containers are lights, wires and one of ours had a table.

88 degrees.

I met Nicholas Calcott who is part of the Tierney Fellowship show. We *met* years ago through the photoblogosphere. And there he is in the flesh, Ray Bans and Levi’s.

Aloys Ginjaar explains that his “Wonder of Woman” show is the fruit of ten months labour searching on the internet, Facebook and magazines. 64 prints all by Dutch photographers.

Wyatt Gallery‘s Tent City looks great and big, but not too big. The PDN showings are a mixed bag but hold my attention.

It feels a bit strange getting excited about pictures on a upright surface when there’s a monster cityscape around and over every container.

89 degrees.

Photoville is providing all things necessary to stave of hunger, dehydration and UV rays. Of all the Photovillers, Alexis Percival is the one I met with today. Friendly faces abound.

I have to say, I am well looking forward to hobnobbing with photofolk on opening night (Friday) and over the weekend for the talks and lectures. I get this giddy feeling every time I come to NYC.

The surroundings are pretty awesome. If you ask the city, we’re at Pier 3. If you ask me, we’re in the midst of one of the world’s greatest skylines (albeit hazy).

A glance to the south and you’d see the statue of liberty.

Turn 90 degrees and you peer north to the Brooklyn Bridge. There’s certainly still a lot to be done on site, but there’s no doubt it’s coming together impressively.

Another 90 and there’s two elevated (noisy) roads.

See what I did in the photo below? Visually, I mean? It’s a visual pun. It’s Pundemonium

91 degrees.

The view from the restrooms is smashing.

The day topped out at 93 degrees. The forecast for tomorrow? 96 degrees.

Stay tuned.

I’ve never seen a photo festival try to Kickstart operations costs, but Photoville seems to be breaking conventions at will.

I’ve been reluctant to plug Photoville’s Kickstarter because it seems weird to raise cash that goes into the bigger pot of cash for a festival that is happening anyway.

I also have an ambivalent relationship to Kickstarter, despite my own personal massive benefit from the platform. Add to that fact, that Photoville is exhibiting my co-curated show Cruel and Unusual, you can confidently peg me in the “conflicted and making-no-sense” hole.

I hope you and Photoville appreciate my honesty, here. I think Sam and the team at Photoville will because they’ve been positive, rays of sunshine throughout the organisation of Cruel and Unusual. I think we’re solid.

Enough confessional.

You’ve got six hours to throw your money in the big pot.

EMAIL

prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

@BROOKPETE ON TWITTER

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