From a RAD little book by Erik Kessels @RVB BOOKS….I am fascinated by the death of the snapshot and old school photo albums.
” Before there was Flickr, Photobucket, Picassa, MobileMe, Facebook, Instagram and Fotki, there was the photo album. A visual repository of private histories and personal narratives, the photo album was found on mantelpieces and bookshelfs in every home. You couldn’t log into a photo album. You couldn’t search it for tags or mail it to your friends. You had to pick it up, open it, flip through it. Experience its physicality, this ever-changing object subject to time and environmental conditions. Inside these archaic homemade books, you’d find a wealth of glorious imagery, and a morass of dull snaps. Often, photo albums would contain what Martin Parr termed “family propoganda,” a too perfect edit of life, a collection whose unspoken agenda was to radiate happiness. Only the good times, the smiles, the sunny days. An endless parade of positive vibes unspoiled by jealousy, hate, bordome, sadness. All those troublesome emotions that compromise so much of what it means to be human. But. A long and dedicated search through old photo albums will occasionally reveal something less than perfection, something other than en entry in the competition to appear normal. And in these cracks, beauty may be found. Perhaps not beauty in the sense of “flawless,” but instead beauty in the sense of “rare.” The so-called “errors” that reveal truth. These errors take many forms, including technical mistakes like poor light, exposure, and red eye. Or they might be “errors” in taste and judgment, at least by the standards of the “family propoganda” mainstream. In this category we see the less than ideal poses, the awkward moment, the ugly yawn. Together, these ugly ducklings help us know the photographer’s character. They become a photo album fingerprint: the sign of an individual’s preferences and failings. Among these revealing errors are visual jokes, ideas that wouldn’t seem out of place on today’s photo-streaming sites. Here, these techniques are revealed to have a long, long lineage. For example, there’s the trick of persepective: a young man on bended knee appearing to hold a distant girl in the palm of his hand. Then there’s images that aren’t going for gags, but do display another kind of pre-Photoshop image manimpulation. Among them. A spread of figures painstakingly cut out and pasted on a black background, bereft of enviournments and context, floating in a scrapbook void. Or grooms (maliciously?) chopped out of wedding images, and friends obliterated from party scenes. In other words, hate applied to images originally intended to express love. But it’s the “unconscious” mistakes that perhaps bring the most striking results. An otherwise banal shot of water and mountains assumes an eerie, fairytale glamour as bands of light bleach the film. And the shyness of a woman waving the camera away is emphasized by the blurriness of the resulting photograph. In all these types of “error”, we find reasons to study the fading glory of the family photo album, and to find unexpected beauty in a dying form of folk art.” -Christian Bunyan