What is interesting about such photos is the concept of the chain link fence as a divider between photographer and subject. When you look at a photograph in general, unless you know who is the photographer (and in snapshots while you might know the name of the photographer in rare instances, you don’t really “know” the individual taking the picture as you “know” Edward Weston, for example), you don’t fixate on the photographer’s effort in taking the photo. However in these chain-link photographs, you become aware of the act of photography since some obstacle (in this case a fence) was placed between the camera and the subject being photographed. Thus the fence prevented the photographer from taking the “perfect” photo--perfect here meaning the ability to record clearly what the photographer actually was seeing in the mind’s eye. And make no mistake, the fence was not really “seen” by the photographer in the way we see it as we look at these photos. The reason, of course, was that he or she was “seeing” what lay beyond the fence and attempting to record that. Yet what the camera saw was the fence and that is what was photographed.
And it is the visual quality of the design the fence formed on the surface of the photo which initially drew me to the genre. Thus I came at these snapshots from a different orientation than the photographer of the photos. In my mind, the fence is the subject of the photo. I am sure the photographer would beg to differ. I don’t really care to try and figure out what actually was being recorded in the photo, since I am not reading the picture in that way. Snapshots functioned for the original owners as a way to create memories; as a tool for the documentation of place and time, to record one’s interaction with family and friends, and to perhaps remember an outing with those individuals. For the snapshot collector, the criteria for purchasing any photo is nearly always about the aesthetics of the singular image. However for this collector, it was also about the multiplicity of fence photos and the typological implication of possessing so many similar, but different, images. I believe it is the sum rather than the parts which is at the root of the collection’s potential appeal.
I think all of us snapshot collectors have small collections of photos which are intriguing to us for one reason or another. Perhaps this blog will provide a forum for others to share collections which “found” them.
----Robert E. Jackson
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