Project 1 The Artist as Curator: Research Point 1

Read Sharon Boothroyd’s interview with Joachim Schmid and listen to him talk about his collection and curation of discarded vernacular photography.

I am an artist because there is no other description for what I do. Joachim Schmid

Joachim Schmid (b.1955) has spent more than 30 years working on the boundaries between photography, art, curation, archivist and editorial practices. He has built his work through collecting vernacular images, initially as hard copy through flea markets and latterly online sources such as Flickr.

Schmid’s source materials would but for him , disappear into the physical or virtual trash heap…Schmid’s ‘anti museum’ of forgotten, lost and disused photographs challenges us to reconsider not only our assumptions of photographic worth, but also how photography and collecting function as cultural practices. (Heffley)

Schmid has created nearly 100 print on demand books, as well as many exhibitions, based around the themes and patterns he finds in the images he collects – from food to hands. He suggests that in looking at such a volume of images it would be nearly impossible not to notice recurring themes. (Boothroyd, 2013) Inherent in his work is also the notion of temporality. When he was collecting physical artefacts the images he had a sense of being up to a generation behind. Now the images are available in real time but such is their volume it is impossible to keep up with the flow.

It is clear that Schmid has been developing a commentary on contemporary cultural practices in relation to photography.

Schmid’s work asks us to reconsider the so called photographic canon, which depends on weighty notions of history, authenticity and authorship. (Heffley)

In doing so he is not exercising judgement on the makers of the photographs, whereas others may have been more critical of the apparent repetition in vernacular photography, as Schmid says ‘it is not my job to tell people what to do and what not to do.’ When he was asked why he thought we have a tendency to take the same photographs, he responds simply, because ‘it works.’ It is rooted in a desire to show all is well in our lives, regardless of the fact that we know life is infinitely more complicated.

Through his mixing and reconfiguration we are forcibly reminded of how plastic today’s world of image production, circulation and consumption can be. (Heffley)

Helpfully, Schmid has shared his processes widely.

References and citations:

Boothroyd, S. (2013). An interview with Joachim Schmid.   Retrieved 3rd December 2017, from

Heffley, D. R. Photography as Urban Archaeology: The Practice of Joachim Schmid.   Retrieved 3rd December 2017, from