ASMP — American Society of Media Photographers

The Strange Lure of Other People’s Photos

Screenshot of article posted on The New York Times MagazineCross-posted from The New York Times Magazine. [By Bill Shapiro]

“These pictures, taken by average people with average cameras, are among the thousand or so that I’ve picked up at flea markets, junk shops, garage sales and, once in a while, on eBay. I started noticing these “found” photos (the fancy name is “vernacular photography”) maybe a decade ago. Noticing turned to looking turned to hunting. Somehow, I’ve accumulated enough photos of long-dead people that I have no connection with to stuff a dozen slate gray 11-by-17-by-3.5 archival boxes.

I’m particularly drawn to quietly composed pictures that hold the sense of an unfinished story. Exhibit A: that older couple staring out from that dusty landscape. Why is there a chair in a spot where it appears nothing else exists for miles? I looked at the picture a few times before I noticed that thin sticks sprout from the ground. Were they homesteaders? Would a town grow here? A city? Someone posed them here, so the moment or place held some importance. But what?”

The Strange Lure of Other People’s Photos

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