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Joachim Schmid

Joachim Schmid is one of the founders of the genre of ‘found photography’. Schuhmacher introduces Schmid as ‘an archaeologist of the ordinary and everyday of our visual culture … preoccupied of what is commonly seen to be culturally devalued visual material, Schmid organizes and recycles pictures into ordered arrangements’.

Looking at his Flickr page, we can find an overview of his work ‘other people’s photographs’, a series of 96 books covering all manner of mundane subjects captured by Flickr users. In the pre-internet age he completed similar projects using paper photographs he ‘gathered’ (doesn’t like the word ‘collected’ as he see himself as a consumer of images, not collector) from junk shops etc.

In Boothroyd and Schuhmacher interviews, I tried to find a motivation for him wanting to spend his time working like this. Schmid explains:

There was a long struggle to establish photography as an art form and that struggle was won. The war is over, photography is acknowledged as an art form. The price the photography world paid for this victory was excluding everything that is not made by artists – ‘That’s actually not photography, that’s not art, it’s just bullshit it’s just rubbish’.

And then that he was interested in photography because it is much more than art. One of his interests is how people usually take the same sort of photographs, even though they are not ‘taught’ how to do this and therefore, he argues, there must be some kind of ‘unspoken or unconscious code’. I think it is much less mysterious than this – we are all surrounded by photographic images from an early age and we learn by copying and mimicking what we see – there is no need to be ‘taught’ with words. Just recently, when visiting Moscow, I was surprised by the numbers of young Russian girls taking selfies or iPhone photos of each other, adopting model-like poses. This is clearly mimicked behaviour and doesn’t need to be taught.

Schmid also talks about the physicality of photographs, saying:

An important feature of the work is the physical quality of photographs. They are kind of objects. They have an object like character, people have them in their wallets or wherever and then they tear them apart. I like the physicality of that work and I think it makes most of the fascination.

This aspect sounds like the attraction of a collector. Once Schmid scans the images and includes them in his books, the physicality of the photographs is necessarily lost and subsumed in the new physicality of the book.

Boothroyd asks a question about Schmid’s sanity, ‘Do you resonate with the idea that photography leads to madness? How do you save yourself from that? (Perhaps you don’t!)’. Schmid’s answer is interesting:

We don’t have such a clear definition of madness any more. To make things more difficult, the answer of a man who is suspected of being mad isn’t a useful diagnosis of the man’s condition. It’s a perfect Catch 22 situation.

It is difficult to reach a view on Schmid’s work without seeing it in one of his photo books, which he suggests are an important aspect of experiencing the work. However, I wonder how much of the interest in Schmid’s work is interest in his methods, and what he has to say, rather than his output. I can’t help imagining him as some sort of manic filing clerk of visual documents.


Boothroyd S (2013). Open College of Arts [website]. An Interview with Joachim Schmid. Available from: http://weareoca.com/photography/an-interview-with-joachim-schmid [accessed 26.9.15]

Joachim Schmid [Flickr album]. Other people’s photographs. Available from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/joachimschmid/albums/72157617550680090 [ accessed 26.9.15]

Schmid J (nd) [blog]. Other peoples’ photographs. Available from: https://schmid.wordpress.com/works/2008–2011-other-people’s-photographs/ [ accessed 26.9.15]

Schuhmacher S (2013). ASX Interviews Joachim Schmid. American SuburbX [online magazine] . Available from: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2013/12/asx-interview-interview-joachim-schmid-2013.html [ accessed 26.9.15]

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