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Matinee: 'Poetics of the Everyday' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

11 May 2019

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 201st in our series of Saturday matinees today: Poetics of the Everyday.

In this 3:46 video, St. Louis Art Museum associate curator Eric Lutz introduces the current exhibition Poetics of the Everyday: Amateur Photography, 1890-1970. The exhibit includes 110 prints collected by John and Teenuh Foster and given to the museum. Trained as a visual artist, John Foster assembled the collection of 150 anonymous found images over the past 20 years.

While you've never seen them before, they'll be familiar. You've seen them in Grandma's photo album or a shoebox in the closet. You may have looked for a caption or some scribble on the back of the print without finding any more information than what the camera caught.

The exhibit of small prints "open doors to the private spaces of domestic life with an intimacy that many fine art photographers could not access."

But it also displays images that have a bit more charm than most. Something that, despite their amateur nature, makes you stop and look at them again.

You can enjoy 11 of the images at your leisure if you scroll down to the bottom of the press release. Click the thumbnail to enlarge the image.

The dates 1890 to 1970 are not to glossed over. In the history of photography, they represent the era of the printed snapshot, with the legendary Kodak Brownie itself arriving in 1900 and the Polaroid SX-70 in 1972.

In that era (which lasted three generations), one was obliged to buy film, take a roll of shots, advancing the film a frame at a time, before dropping off the exposed film at the drug store to be developed and have prints made.

Polaroid's Land Camera that used instant film was introduced in 1947, changing the game by letting you process a sandwiched negative and print in a minute or so right after exposure. And by 1963 the process included color prints, too.

From 1970 to 1990, the era of the one-hour photo machine processing 35mm color film into small prints dominated amateur photography. And amateurs themselves started buying single lens reflex cameras that were capable of more than snapshots.

But that only lasted one generation, you may have noticed. The smartphone era of digital snapshots that rarely are printed but shared electronically began with VGA images in the early 2000s, taking off with the iPhone in 2007.

The images in this exhibit rise a bit above the ordinary album snapshot. That's why the Fosters collected them, after all. For their formal qualities, their imaginative expression, their unusual composition.

But those charming qualities are also a part of what make them familiar. Haven't we all seen visions like this through the lens of our own camera?


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