Joachim Schmidt- Surveying the repetitive


Copyright Joachim Schmitd

There is no doubt that the supply of images being created on a daily basis is overwhelming. Schmidt, who gathers found images, himself says in the interview with Sharon Boothroyd that more images go on Flickr in a day than he can manage and review. Schmidt is very specific  about the fact that he is not collecting but gathering images, he sees this as a different act to that of the collector. He cites the anthropological definition of the the term to define what he is doing is gathering for his own consumption.

Schmidt started gathering images in flea market and using them as the source for his own exploration and art. Through hard work and painstaking review, rather than eureka moments, he has in a way begun to classify images through his survey of this material. I perhaps use the term classify loosely for he has actually identified and distilled recurrent themes and patterns in the vast amount of photographs he has reviewed. Theses them and patterns lead to the conclusion that photographers whether professional , amateur or family event snapshot shooters continue to make essentially the same images.

He has published more than 90 books of found images in which he reveals the recurring images that we all seem to make.

I pondered for some time on this idea. I had in my Expressing Your Vision blog reflected on the reductive and ultimately dead end making contribution of the popular amateur photographic press and although this might sound cynical I have worked hard to exorcise my self of the years of influence of these publications. I have now long since stopped looking at the publications because they tend in my view to encourage one form of the repetition that that Schmidt has identified. Not only this but they also have a motivation , driven by advertising revenue, to sell us the latest thing that will assist in creating that excellent replica image that some else has already made. Further to this and thinking about Williamson’s writing around advertising, one might argue that rather than being the audience of the popular amateur photographic press, the amateur photographer is in fact the product, with adversities and manufactures being the real consumer!

That said there are many other reasons for the reputation that Schmidt describes, the cultural place of the family snapshot in our lives. The obligatory snap taken at beauty spots and places of interest. A professional photographer friend recently shared the back story to one of his images of an abandoned fishing boat on the shores of a Scottish Island. The image is dark and evocative. what you can’t see though is that he had to que for several hours to make the image because of the long line of image makers wanting to create  a version of the same image. There is an irony to the idea that an image of a lonely and desolate place was really , just out of shot, a veritable hive of activity!

Learning points

  • I wonder if there is a cultural determinant to the range of similar images, do different cultures photographic different version of the same thing?
  • How does the artist create something different?
  • What drives this human compulsion to record the same things
  • Is this process perhaps part of the process of cultural transmission?

Lots to ponder!



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