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Which clippings match 'Vernacular Photography' keyword pg.1 of 1
31 JULY 2012

What is Vernacular Photography?

"The term covers (and promises) a lot, and a quick Google search fills in quite a bit of the territory. One enthusiast snagged the domain name, but there are plenty of others in the game.

One site notes that vernacular photography is '...one of the most affordable areas of collecting and therefore offers wonderful opportunities for the beginner to acquire beautiful examples of photographic art at very reasonable prices.' gargantuaphotos.com poses the basic question: 'Why would I buy someone else's crappy old photos?', and thefoundphoto.com is another gallery/vendor.

Boston University hosted Vernacular Reframed, 'a two–day interdisciplinary conference examining issues in vernacular photography' in November 2004, but lots of enthusiasts are in the game as well: Square America, bighappyfunhouse.com, and Junior Bonner blogs about the phenomenon. Some specialize in specific genres, like photobooth and African American Vernacular Photography. Ookpik specializes in Michigan photographs, happy palace has an eclectic (and ever–growing) mix, greywater posts 'photographs from films I processed that I found in old cameras...', and eBay has a Vernacular Photography Enthusiasts group with more than 100 members.

Serious scholarship is not far behind: Electronic Journal of Vernacular Photography may be stillborn, but Innocence regained? Or just another kind of fiction? from eye magazine suggests that there are many who take the medium seriously. One is Geoffrey Batchen who taught a course at CUNY's Graduate Center (there's a video of a lecture he gave at Brown)

Quite a few museums have had vernacular photography shows, including Kodak and the Rise of Amateur Photography at New York's Metropolitan Museum, and this grant proposal from the Indiana University Archives Seeing the Color of America: Digitizing the Charles Cushman Collection is evidence of archival interest in the medium.

My friend Joan Larcom reminds me of one of the authorities who has done the most in this realm, Michael Lesy, and his coinage of the term demotic photography, which I find a good supplement to 'vernacular'. A New York Times story notes that:

'In the past, Mr. Lesy has ruffled some academic feathers by arguing that what he calls 'demotic photography,' like family snapshots or picture postcards, deserves the same level of scholarly study traditionally given only to art photography... 'my whole intention is to subvert the [art photography] canon... There are possibilities that go beyond the safe definitions of what an artist is and what the camera is used for. ...Academics... deal with photographs as aesthetic, intellectual constructs, or as integers in philosophical or linguistic argument. That's not all they are. They're slippery and deeply emotionally charged. A photograph is a thing which, to use an old scholarly word, needs to be 'unpacked.' There's the manifest content, then half a dozen layered contents.'
(NYT 17 Dec 2005 sec B pg 9)"

(Hugh Blackmer, oook.info)

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TAGS

2004academic journal • accidental documents • amateur cultural productionamateur photographeramateur photographyanonymous • anonymous snapshots • archival interest • art photography • Charles Cushman Collection • City University of New York • CUNY • demotic photography • Electronic Journal of Vernacular Photography • family photos • family snapshotsfound • found films • found photographs • Geoffrey Batchen • Hugh Blackmer • Indiana University Archives • Kodak and the Rise of Amateur Photography • layered meaninglayers of meaningmanifest content • Michael Lesy • New York Metropolitan Museum • newspaper photographs • nostalgia • Ookpik • photobooth • photobooth photography • photographic art • photography enthusiasts • picture postcardspostcardreadymadesnapshotsnapshotsvernacular photography • vernacular photography enthusiasts • vernacular photography shows • Vernacular Reframed (conference)

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
16 JANUARY 2010

Standard Gauge: examining the shards of the film industry frame by frame

"Standard Gauge is an autobiographical account of a few years in the film career of its maker. Such, at least, is its ostensible form and purpose. The material from which the film is composed is pieces of 35mm motion picture film, a width known in former times as standard gauge, that its maker collected while working in and around the commercial motion picture industry. The pieces are a miscellaneous assortment, and include narrative features, trailers, newsreels, commercials, and pieces of head and tail leader. ...

By examining the shards of the industry frame by frame, it discovers some of the means and themes of experimental film living, so to speak, in Hollywood. And at the same time, the film engulfs and usurps the material of the commercial motion picture industry, turning it into its subject. Thus Standard Gauge proposes a kind of mutuality or interdependence between two kinds of filmmaking that by conventional standards are thought to be divided by an unbridgeable chasm. By means of a mutual interrogation between 35mm, the gauge of the industry, and 16mm, the gauge of the independent and amateur, Standard Gauge proposes to unify film of every kind."

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TAGS

16mm198435mmartefact • China girl • commentaryephemeraexperimental filmfilmfilmmaking • forensic • found footagefound imagesframe by framegleanerHollywoodindependent cinemamaterial culturememorabilia • Morgan Fisher • scavenged • Standard Gauge • stop frametechnologyvernacular photography

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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