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


Constructed images

In working through Part One I have come across several photographers/artists whose constructed images and processes have proved particularly stimulating. I was thinking this might be something I wanted to follow up for assignment one, although I’m not sure it qualifies as a traditional ‘cut and paste’ technique.

Daniel Gordon

Colourful collaged image of plants and pots

Daniel and Gordon, Ratatouille and Smoke Bush, 2014

I am always fascinated to see the working practices of artists and photographers. I am struck about the levels of layering that Gordon uses in his work and while he uses a lot of found images his constructions take them into new contexts and meanings. I like the juxtaposition between 2D and 3D and the fact that when looking at the work it is not always easy to tell if they are photographs or paintings; the original objects or facsimiles. I think they are partly about challenging the nature of photography and its associations with ‘reality’ and ‘truth’ although Gordon suggests his work does not have an overt message. He does however; recognise the importance of their materiality and construction.

A question for me is, why not just create everything in the computer? But, without seams and faults and limitations my project would be very different. The seamlessness of the ether is boring to me, but the materialization of that ether, I think, can be very interesting.

Gordon talks about his processes here;

Anastasia Samoylova

Collage of different pictures of water

Anastasia Samoylova, Glaciers, 2015

Samoylova is a new artist to me but given my assignment one is going to look at water and nature I was really happy to have found her. I like the constructed nature of her work and that she is directly addressing idealised nature and landscape and like Vionnet is addressing our received cultural symbols through using found images.

My work explores the ways in which photography is used to illustrate concepts of the Beautiful and the Natural in contemporary visual culture. Through my practice I examine photographic typologies of landscapes culled from stock and public domain image libraries online. My research focuses on widely circulated nature-themed images that depict such cultural constructs as Nature, Environment, and Beauty, the concepts that ultimately illustrate our world view. Each of my tableaus is an aestheticized environment constructed out of idealized landscape pictures that manifest the conventional views of the Beautiful in nature. By investigating the formal aspects of such depictions,

Her vimeo lecture gives a useful insight into the development of her work.

Calum Colvin

Calum Colvin Sacred Ibis 1995

Researching Gordon and Samoylova reminded me of Calum Colvin’s work, a photographer I had first come across some years ago. Colvin combines a very constructed and sculptural approach with painting and photography. He also uses found images and references contemporary cultural symbolism.

I was interested in ‘documentary’ photography but quite quickly realized that this was one element in a whole range of possible areas of enquiry inherent in the medium. I realized that I could use the monocular viewpoint of the camera to encompass a whole range of concerns.

…Anamorphic perspective has been around for a long time, since the 16th C. I am interested in work that concerns this, as it presents a kind of other world, floating between reality and vision. Photography, with its monocular eye, ideally suits this technique, which I try to marry with cultural artifices.

Colvin talks about a work based on Robert Burns:

Whether for this part of course or further down the line I am interested in exploring this area of construction and seeing how I can make it my own and not a poor derivative of the distinctive work of these artists.