Album Beauty is an ode to the vanishing era of the photo album as told through the collection of Erik Kessels. Once commonplace in every home, the photo album has been replaced by the digital age where images live online and on hard drives. Photo albums were once a repository for family history, often representing a manufactured family as edited for display. They speak of birth, death, beauty, sexuality, pride, happiness, youth, competition, exploration, complicity and friendship. Album Beautyis an exhibition about the visual anthropology of the photo album.
Erik Kessels is a collector of vernacular photography and has spent many a Saturday at outdoor markets and junk stores collecting these amateur narratives. He is often drawn to their imperfections. These flawed executions and/or scared appearances of old age tell another part of their story. According to Kessels: ‘A long and dedicated search through photo albums will occasionally reveal something less than perfection, something other than an entry in the competition to appear normal. And in these cracks, beauty may be found.’
What I find so interesting about Kessels’ book Album Beauty is the fact that this supposed ‘family album’ is actually in fact nothing to do with his own family but images he has found in markets etc and collected over the years then made this book from. I find it so fascinating how family albums would come to a place like a market to be sold…surly everyone would want to keep their family albums? I know I would and I also know my family would too! Why would you want other people, strangers handling your precious family photos?
I decided to take a look into this body of work suggested by a class mate as I am basing my project on a family archive also. I am really glad I came across this body of work as it has really become interesting to me as I love old family photographs and going through them finding the little gems these albums hold, all the stories that can be told thorough a few images is amazing!
Many years ago, I started to look for amateur images in flea markets or on the Internet. In 2000, I started working with these images, making exhibitions and books with them. I am especially interested in those photos that have a certain narrative in them – even if the person who took them wasn’t necessarily aware of that. An amateur is someone who is very enthusiastic and fascinated about something, but who doesn’t always think about the story he or she is telling. My collection of books called In almost every picture, and the magazine that I created, Useful Photography, are a kind of channels that allow me to express my “obsession” with images. It’a also an opportunity for me to show them to other people.
The website above has a very interesting interview with Kessels’ – worth reading!
Kessels’ also done an exhibition on this work but instead of putting up every image on the walls some were left on the floor to look at, an interesting way of presenting his work at an exhibition? It almost seems as if he is trying to recreate the way he found the albums in the markets, on tables, on the floor…etc! I really think this way of showing his images really does work.