Saturday, March 13, 2010

Finger in Your Eye: Accidental Snapshots by Barbara Levine

Vernacular snapshot collectors have a fondness for images affectionately termed ‘mistake’ photographs. Also described as light leak, out of focus, blur, ghostly, accidental misfire, camera flash, end of the roll, double exposure or bad cropping photos (to name a few), these snapshots epitomize the discrepancy between the image captured by the camera and the photographer’s intended composition. From a digital perspective as well as our impulse as collectors to categorize and make typologies, vintage snapshots with aberrations are intriguing. I have always been drawn to accidental finger in the camera lens snapshots. We have all done it -  sometime between pressing down the shutter and its closure, our finger(s) slip into the frame resulting in a picture featuring a giant phantom shape (sometimes with manicured nail) hovering over a car or building or appearing to touch the subjects in the photo.    

The ‘finger in your eye’ accident (my term of endearment for these snapshots) becomes the subject of the photograph. More importantly, because the fingertip shown in the photo is the photographer’s, we become aware viscerally of the relationship between photographer, subject and camera. We immediately wonder about the photographer and their relationship to the people or things in the picture. The ‘finger in your eye’ images below exemplify the aspect of vernacular photography that is about looking beyond the accidental foibles of the photographer (camera and chemistry included), to find and contextualize vintage snapshots with compelling compositions. For more examples, visit and the exhibit “Finger In Your Eye: Accidental Snapshots”.

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