Je est un autre : the vernacular in photobooks


The ICP Library presents:
Je est un autre: the vernacular in photobooks
Thursday November 30th 2017
6:00 – 8:30 pm

ICP Library: 1114 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10036
Opening Reception and Presentations of Vernacular Photo Collections
Creatively Organized by
Bernard Yenelouis, Emily P. Dunne & Matthew Carson


Je est un autre : the vernacular in photobooks – text by Bernard Yenelouis

. . . these pictures no longer simulate vertical fields, but opaque flatbed horizontals. They no more depend on a head-to-toe correspondence with human posture than a newspaper does. The flatbed picture plane makes its symbolic allusion to hard surfaces such as tabletops, studio floors, charts, bulletin boards – any receptor surface on which objects are scattered, on which data is entered, on which information may be received, printed, impressed – whether coherently or in confusion . . . the surface is no longer the analogue of a visual experience of nature but of operational processes.

. . . What I have in mind is the psychic address of the image, its special mode of imaginative confrontation, and I tend to regard the tilt of the picture plane from vertical to horizontal as expressive of the most radical shift in the subject matter of art, the shift from nature to culture.

–          Leo Steinberg, “The Flatbed Picture Plane,” Other Criteria. MIT Press, 1972

The shift “from nature to culture” that art historian Leo Steinberg describes, which was a way to unpack the then new paintings of Robert Rauschenberg, can also act as a portal to understand the interest and market for photo books.


The International Center of Photography Library presents an investigation of vernacular imagery in the photobook. These books utilize found photographs, snap shots, archives and collections of others. The turn of the most recent century has seen an impassioned interest in these objects both for collectors and artists. With the glut of over a century of folk photography, there is an endless source of images to collect, curate, re-appropriate and digitize. The photobook reproduces the images both so the reader can collect themselves and the artist can manipulate or alter the meaning of the image.

The Vernacular manifests itself in the photobook along a spectrum, or concocting elements from variations on: The mysterious narratives of Wisconsin Death Trip and Mariken Wessels, the born-digital collections of Chris Clary and Joachim Schmidt, presentations of a hyper specific collections of raccoon hunts or sad postcards, Luc Sante and William E. Jones mining public institutional collections. They all share the unique quality of the book: a presentation of material in an intentional sequence meant to move the viewer.

We hope you can join us tonight, and celebrate the vernacular!

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