Lumpenfotografie. Per una fotografia senza vanagloria
The term comes from Franco Vaccari, Lumpenfotografie (literally “ragged photo- graphy”), based on Marx’s famous definition of the Lumpenproletariat. Marx defined “lumpenproletariat” as a social group formed by the “outcasts of all classes”: an underworld that lives by its wits, utterly lacking in class consciousness. Transforming Marx’s socio-political category into an aesthetic distinction, Vaccari has spoken of “lumpenfotografie” with respect to the work of the German artist Joachim Schmid, who for three decades has gathered, selected and exhibited work that is not, and does not claim to be, “art” photography: pictures from newspa- pers, amateur snapshots, ID photos, pornography, the illustrations in manuals... A motley and anarchical mass, lacking in the aesthetic awareness (and linguistic self- awareness) typical of “art” photography, and therefore constitutes the photographic counterpart of Marx’s “lumpen”. Vaccari’s formulation suggested the idea of putting together several artists who have made “lumpenfotografie” the object (and often the very material) of their work: Hans-Peter Feldmann, Peter Piller, Alessandra Spranzi, Joachim Schmid and Vac- cari himself. Among the exhibited works: the small self-produced publications in which Feldmann, already towards the end of the 1960s, presented selections of banal images, organized by subject; some items from the archives of Piller, an impressive collection of the widest range of types of images found in newspapers; a selection from Bilder von der Straße of Schmid, a collection spanning three decades of photo- graphs found by the artist in the street; the prints of the Vendesi series by Spranzi, whose subjects are the technically shoddy images, though at times of unintentional charm, of the objects put up for sale in want-ad magazines; and, finally, some panels from the Fotomatic d’Italia series (1972) by Vaccari, on which the Italian artist has gathered and catalogued the ID photos sent to him by people who wanted to partici- pate in a fictitious casting call. The approach of these artists to their object of study is far from uniform: it wavers between analytical detachment and irony, between the cold, cataloguing methods of Conceptual Art and a perceptible aesthetic attraction. In any case, in these artists we do not seem to see any haughty intellectual disdain for the images they use or for the anonymous photographers who made the pictures. Along different paths, they all seem to have reached the same conclusions of a countryman of Vaccari, the writer Ermanno Cavazzoni: the back cover of one of his books (which the style would lead us to believe was prepared by the author himself) points to “a serene way of writing, without vainglory”, in the awareness that “even intelligence and its pretensions are part of that universal idiocy that accompanies the human race from birth to death and, perhaps, beyond” (Vite brevi di idioti, 1994).
Joachim Schmid, Photogenetic Draft #8, 1991—2001, bw photograph, 48x3
Joachim Schmid, Photogenetic Draft #4, 1991—2001, bw photograph, 48x3
Joachim Schmid, Photogenetic Draft #7, 1991—2001, bw photograph, 48x3
Peter Piller, Bedeutungsflachen – Pointing at Plains, , set of 10 bw photographs
Hans-Peter Feldmann, All the clothes of a woman, , 70 bw photographs, 90x130 cm.
Joachim Schmid, Other People's Photographs - On the Road, 2008 - 2011, artist book
Joachim Schmid, Other People's Photographs - Things, 2008 - 2011, artist book
Hans-Peter Feldmann, Bilder, from 1968, artist books
Alessandra Spranzi, Vendesi #260, from 2007, colour photograph, 20x30 cm
Alessandra Spranzi, Vendesi #104, from 2007, colour photograph, 20x30 cm, ed. 3 + 2 A.p.
Alessandra Spranzi, Vendesi #230, from 2007, colour photograph, 20x30 cm
Alessandra Spranzi, Vendesi #134, from 2007, colour photograph, 20x30 cm
Alessandra Spranzi, Vendesi #244, from 2007, colour photograph, 20x30 cm
Alessandra Spranzi, Vendesi #259, from 2007, colour photograph, 20x30 cm
Alessandra Spranzi, Vendesi #239, from 2007, colour photograph, 20x30 cm
Alessandra Spranzi, Occasione unica #4, 1999, color photograph, cm.33x50
Franco Vaccari, Photomatic d'Italia, 1974, photostrips collage on cardboard, 50x70 cm.
Franco Vaccari, Photomatic d'Italia, 1973-74, photostrips collage on card, cm.50x70
Franco Vaccari, Photomatic d'Italia (Salerno), 1973, photostrips collage on card, cm.50x70
Franco Vaccari, Photomatic d'Italia (Salerno), 1974, photostrips collage on card, cm.50x70
Joachim Schmid, Bilder von der Strasse, Nr. 200, Rio de Janeiro, October 1993, found photograph mounted on card, cm.29,5x21,5, detail
Joachim Schmid, Bilder von der Strasse, Nr. 950, Montevideo, March 2010, found photograph mounted on card, cm.29,5x21,5, detail
Hans-Peter Feldmann, Love Couples, , cutter poster in wooden box, 55x40 cm.
Franco Vaccari, L'album di Debora, 2002, video, 10'49''