BA Phot



Lynn Berger, Snapshots, or: Visual Culture's Clichés from Acedemia
Aperture, Vol. 19, No. 1 [73], the Snapshot (1974), pp. 1-128 from Jstor

The Three Graces by Michal Raz-Russo
Box A
The Three Graces
Michal Raz-Russo [1]

As I wrote in the blog in January 2020,

Regular readers will know that I enjoy the curation of the vernacular, first encountered in organised form at the V&A's inaugural display in 2018. In Waterstones, Gower Street today I found a remaindered The Three Graces by Michal Raz-Russo (£6.99 plays £19.99) [1]. blog

I'll start a blog-type entry here, documenting my finds on the subject, initially populated retrospectively. (when time allows)

Cohen, V&A - Joachim Schmid - Three Graces - Bird, Question for Seller - VPK - Tar Beach - Towards a definition




This was my first encounter with the curated vernacular at the V&A's (then) recently opened   photography gallery

Cohen Collection

This is my third pick from the show, after Neusüss' Latticed Window and Meier's 29 pictures …. The label gives the background,

In the 1990s the American collector Peter Cohen began combing flea markets and auctions for snapshot photographs. Since then he has assembled a substantial collection that he carefully organises into categories. The photographs displayed here are from the category 'Shadows'. V&A

There is a clear read-across here to the work of Lee Friedlander.

Cohen Cohen Cohen
Box B
Various anonymous photographers, Vernacular photographs from the collection of Peter Cohen

Link - Collector's web site


Joachim Schmid

from the Preamble to C&N,

Joachim Schmid
© Joachim Schmid
Box C
Vernacular photographs from
the collection of Peter Cohen,

[16Nov p.15] Next to Joachim Schmid who collected and organised thousands of photographs, originally from flea-markets and more recently from online sites such a Flickr. He produced books of images by subject (96 according to the course material). The example shown is wedding couples with flowers (fig. C1).

Rear Ends
Box D
Rear Ends,
Handy and Elsener

Similar work was done by Peter Cohen in the US and an example shown in the inaugural exhibition at the V&A's new (in 2018) Photography Gallery: fig. C2 shows a subset of the display.
Shortly before starting C&N, I came across a copy of Rear Ends, gathered by Roger Handy and Karin Elsener [2]. What surprised me was that this apparently racy volume had been issued by the reputable art book publisher Abrams in 2007. I bought it in a degree of dudgeon with the intention of using as Exhibit A to illustrate, when the need arose, how public norms have changed since 2007. As luck would have it, it transpires that the front cover (fig. D1) is the only controversial image in the book: the contents are in Cohen's vernacular.

The Three Graces by Michal Raz-Russo
Box A (rpt.)
The Three Graces
Michal Raz-Russo


Three Graces

Which brings us to where this page started with this book. These are sourced from the Peter Cohen collection too and comprise 150 images of trios of women, mostly from the 1920s to the 1940s, with some either side. Curated by Michal Raz-Russo, the author writes that these 'snapshots cannot supply the information needed to fully reconstruct the context in which they were created … [each] picture was chosen for a distinctive detail - a bold pose, an awkward expression, or a whimsical outfit - yet the theme of the Three Graces reveals unexpected overall similarities occasioned by cultural and generational influences' [1].

They are shown in the order they appear in the book.

Three Graces Three Graces Three Graces Three Graces Three Graces Three Graces Three Graces Three Graces Three Graces
Box E
5. c. 1920s
9. Lindau, c. 1920s
4, 6. c. 1930s
1. May 19, 1935
2, 3, 8. c. 1940s
7. c. 1950s
© Michal Raz-Russo / Peter Cohen / original owners or their estates

Nicky Bird,
Question for Seller
First purchase


Nicky Bird, Question for Seller

Part 5 of C&N shows the curation of Bird's Question for Seller. Bird bought unwanted family photographs on ebay and asked the vendors questions about them. She states,

Question for Seller originated from my interest in family photographs that appear on eBay. I purchased photographs that no-one else bid for, with the connotation that they were unwanted, and therefore with no significant value. The seller was approached with the question – How did you come across the photos and what, if anything, do you know about them? Their replies, however brief, are as important as the photographs they are selling – sometimes alluding to a part of a discarded family history, or the everyday, where personal photographs have long since lost their original meaning.” cmat p.120,

Feb 2021

Vest Pocket Kodak

The VPK got a mention in IP Exc. 3.3 - that's a particular niche of the vernacular. I'll mention my late uncle Vernon some time.

Vernacular - Tar Beach

From the blog, 26Feb21

Regular readers will be aware of my liking of unpretentious archive vernacular projects. L'oeil de la photographie delivered deails of a delightful new book today, Tar Beach by Susan Meiselas. First the title - Tar beach is not a phrase I had heard before but it is a known thing (there are other books with titles that include it): it's a lovely concept. derived from the urban tendency to sunbathe on flat roofs. That immediately brings to mind two things Alvarex Bravo's nude,The Good Reputation, Sleeping (La Buena Fama Durmiendo), 1938 - looking at it now, it's probably not a rooftop, but there is a wall so it might be urban.
And the Beatles farewell rooftop concert (Wikipedia) with the incomparable Billy Preston (How great thou art).

Back to the book,

Tar beach Tar beach Tar beach Tar beach
Tar Beach, Susan Meiselas
© the artists, their agents or their estates

There's another borderline vernacular item on order, Russian Self Portraits, David Attie. More on that later.

24th July 2021

Towards a definition

From the I&P blog.

© Martin Parr
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, 1990

A subject rendered so personally as to be of little immediate interest other than to those involved, their relatives and their friends, typically, Auntie Maud at the Eiffel Tower.

The recent advent and expansion of social media rests on the myth that such interest is now more widespread.

A more generalised interest can be legitimised by the passage of time when an image may be recycled (often as one of many) for sociological or artistic purposes, or very occasionally when one of those present attains subsequent fame or notoriety.

The act of vernacular photography may be the subject of serious photography, such as Parr's The Leaning Tower of Pisa, 1990

Logo v.2




Logo v.2




Figs. n



Logo v.2


1. Raz-Russo, M. (2011) The Three Graces: snapshots of 20th-century women. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago.

2. Handy, R. & Elsener, K (2007) Rear Ends. New York, Abrams.

n. author, init (year) Title. Location: Publisher.

n. author (year) title [online]. website. Available from url [Accessed nn January 2020].

Page created 27-Jan-2020 | Page updated 25-Jul-2021