Old photographs have an amazingly powerful ability to stir up sensations of things we thought we had forgotten, but for Erik Kessels, they provide a great way into the lives of others we never knew. The Dutch advertising impresario runs the much-respected agency KesselsKramer, but he also has side-project publishing interesting and unusual collections of found photography through his In Almost Every Picture (IAEP) books.
There are 13 volumes in the series so far and each book is dedicated to a single collection of vintage photographs. They are moving and hilarious, nostalgic and thought-provoking – often all in the space of a single tome. Some of the subjects are pretty straightforward, such as IAEP #6 which documents one woman’s passport photos, or IAEP #1 which consists of hundreds of pictures that a husband took of his wife from the mid-1950s to the late 1960s, found in a flea market in Barcelona. These surreptitiously explore questions of memory and identity in seemingly silly ways, but they often pack an emotional punch too. In IAEP #4 we watch as a pair of twin sisters grow up together in pre-war Spain, posing for the camera in carefully-matched outfits. Then suddenly and with no explanation, one of the twins no longer appears in the photos. We can only speculate what happened to her.
Other titles are lighter in content but nevertheless throw up interesting questions about our relationships with photography, and each other. IAEP #9 is a series of photographs a family took of their beloved black dog. And yet because of the dog’s colouring and the owners’ primitive photographic equipment, we are actually presented with a surreal series of pictures of a big black blob, stubbornly resisting the loving attempts to record its place in family life.
One of our favourite books in the series is IAEP #13, described by Kessels as “a short history of photography’s most common mistake.” It’s a collection of pictures where the photographer’s finger has unwittingly loomed into the corner of the frame. Nowadays with digital cameras and our ability to instantly edit and re-shoot our every snap, these pictures are discarded. But for generations of amateur photographs, this was an occupational hazard of taking pictures, and so this book of oddly hilarious mistakes reminds us just how much the art form has changed.