Friday, February 12, 2010

Hidden in Plain Sight

(Above) This eBay photo sent in by a reader... love it!

Above and below: photos for the selling of deer antlers. Click on any image for larger view.

Below: trying to document a monkey doll for sale on eBay. Click on any image for larger view.

Below: a series of eBay snapshots showing various views of three plastic figures being sold. Click on any image for larger view.

THERE IS NOT A DAY THAT GOES BY THAT I DO NOT LOOK AT EBAY. I am looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack, the great object or snapshot or whatever catches my eye.

When we think of vernacular photography, we think of the printed image—something you can hold in your hand. If we define a snapshot as something made not so much as “art” but as a documentation of something by everyday people, you begin to see the difference between fine art photography and the snapshot. As a collector of vernacular images, I specifically look for images that stand far and away from the ordinary family snapshot. I look for images that have a sense of mystery, an untold story to tell, strong composition, good tonal values and rarity. I find these images at garage sales, estate sales, and on-line auctions like eBay.

When you think of eBay, hundreds of thousands of people shoot pictures not as art, but as documents to try and sell their product. So, given this definition of vernacular photography, wouldn’t these digital images on eBay be considered as such? I ask, why not?

Hidden in plain sight on eBay are these digital images (made simply to document a product for sale), that I think are rather interesting in their own right. What do you think?


Re:Design Technologies said...

Dear John,

Thanks for sharing your perspective with the world. I have never thought of product documentation as vernacular photography.

(Since you asked) I think that the subject matter of the photos that you have chosen is completely brilliant and that the seller in the red long johns should get some serious paper work in order because their product is no doubt contravening multiple Wildlife Act laws. I would see these three products in the hands of an intentionally capable photographer.



Hillbilly said...

I think they all have some value, though the last set of pictures, (plastic figures), give me that tingle when I see pictures or snaps where the author takes a distinctly different point of view. The seem more like a unique document to me than the others.

It's a great point to make. thanks.

Jim Linderman said...

Ahh. A good post. Our mutual friend Robert used to send me pics of inadvertent feet in ebay photos. The relationship between photo as physical object and photo as digital string interests me as well. I have realized since the web, I haven't saved a personal photograph...real printed photos go in a box (as I am finding out cleaning my father's things) but digital photos may float in cyberspace, but I never keep them. One day I will wish I did.

squareamerica said...

One of the early issues of Useful Photography (edited by Eric Kessels who also does the In almost every picture series) was dedicated to eBay sellers photography. I've never seen the issue- when used copies are available they tend to be pretty pricey- I definitely agree that there's some amazing stuff out there.

littledeadmommy said...

I think....that monkey's hand frightens me.

ilovetrash said...

hi there.

here is an accidental mystery for you.

i bought the monkey.
meaning: i am its ebay consumer
{or something like that.}

it's somewhere in storage.
{along w/ 250 pairs of platform shoes, etc & ect.
my real shop, not ebay shop, is going up this week.
if you click my name
i think you can see the beta.
i think.}

it, otoh, should not be going up, at least not for a little while. along w/ nik nik shirts, lilli anns, 60s/70s leather, various velvet, etc & ect,
for a while i was collecting
the plastic headed.

as an aside,
{or as an addendum}
i came here
in search of photos
from macy's thanksgiving parades of the 20s & 30s.

tired, here, this morning {3:45}.

my best to you, &
have a happy,
yr tired compatriot,
{wv, actually}

vink said...

what's more accidental, that monkey doll looks like one my brother lost in 1973 between the walls of a staircase in our house in Spenard Alaska. He named that doll "Funny Guy" and was very distraught at losing him. He even a few years ago, when the house was for sale, tried to break into that wall to retrieve him but was unable to.
I guess you can never get your "Rosebud" back. said...

Wow that monkey is really creepy. Some canvas wall art wonderful toys though!

ethan said...

Ah what wonderful toys, I bet there all really delicate by now! I agree the monkey looks scary so click here to get away from him!

Arthur said...

Very nice post as always it's great to read your stuff!

Arthur @

Canvas art said...
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