Review: In Almost Every Picture 7: Shooting Gallery


Book Reviews, Photobooks

With a digital camera it is simple to take your own photo every day, for a few years (or however long you want to go for). Of course, there are many other ways to take your own photo. Ria van Dijk, a woman living in The Netherlands, found one: She shot her own portrait for the past seventy years. She used a rifle rigged to a camera at the various fairs she went to, getting a photo every time she hit bull’s eye. The only years she missed were those when the actual shooting happened: There is a gap from 1939 to 1948. But otherwise, she shot her photo, year after year, and she kept them all. Here they are, in In Almost Every Picture 7: Shooting Gallery.

Her pose almost never changes (even though once, there is a photo of her relaxed, without the rifle: The triggering mechanism failed, and they took her photo afterwards), neither does - amazingly enough - the way she looks. Almost everything else changes (the types of instant films, for example).

There must be so many other people who are not photographers, but who sit on a treasure trove of photography - most of which we never get to see. That is, unless Erik Kessels manages to find that treasure trove. As its title indicates, In Almost Every Picture 7: Shooting Gallery is the seventh of a series of books published by Kesselskramer Publishing, a Dutch imprint well known for its “Useful Photography” series. According to the publisher, the “In Almost Every Picture” series “is a look at photography in the vernacular beauty of its creation and use.” In Almost Every Picture 7: Shooting Gallery clearly shows that beauty (part of which comes from reproducing those instant photos in their original sizes).

Once you look at more books from the “In Almost Every Picture” series you realize that the title is literally correct. The books do not just contain random vernacular photographs; they are filled with photos which show the same thing, the same people, over and over again. A pair of twins, always posing the same way - and when one goes missing, the photos end up with a blank spot. An old lady who cannot walk paying a taxi driver to take her to Austria, where he takes photos of the landscape - with the taxi in them (if you look closely you can see the woman sitting in the car). Or, as in In Almost Every Picture 7: Shooting Gallery, a woman shooting her own photo year after year at the various fairs she goes to. This is vernacular photography at its best, because it moves beyond the haha effect that, sadly enough, is the focus of so many other displays of such photography. I’m really looking forward to what Erik Kessels with unearth next.

PS: If you are interested in other photos taken at such shooting galleries, there is “La Photographie Qui Fait Mouche”, by Clément Chéroux. This little booklet does not show the same person, but it contains quite the selection of people who are very well known, incl. Simone de Beauvoir (with her eyes closed, standing next to Jean-Paul Sartre), Man Ray and Lee Miller, a very young Henri Cartier-Bresson, Federico Fellini, Robert Frank, and many more. I failed to find any information about it online (believe it or not), so if you want to get it you might get a whiff of the olden days (when finding things was a bit of an effort and way more exciting): There’s an ISBN (978-2-84940-047-5); or you could call the publisher/distributor, Librairie Serge Plantureux, at +33-1-53-29-92-00.