Erik Kessels

Erik Kessels is the Dutch co-founder and creative director of KesslesKramer.

He is also a collector of non-professional photography and a curator who describes himself as “not a specialist” but one who works in varied disciplines. I have enjoyed looking at his various enterprises as he clearly has a great sense of humour which is evident throughout much of the work .Yet despite the sometimes comical slant of the books and magazines their documentary value surpasses this aspect of the projects.

Kessels collects images that have been thrown away because they are imperfect and like Christian Boltanski he searches for old and abandoned photographs + photo albums in flea markets and junk stores . The vernacular images are recycled to be featured in books or magazines created by Kessels and his associates . Unfortunately with the advent of digital photography and on-line sites traditional printed family albums are fast becoming obsolete and harder to find. Less than perfect images are immediately deleted , photographs are no longer printed and preserved in personal albums but kept on hard-drives or publicly shared via social media.

It is extraordinary to think that photo albums have only been in existence for roughly one hundred years , and now they are virtually dead” . Erik Kessels.

Useful Photography
A magazine co-edited by Kessels with four other editors.

Each issue consists solely of unsophisticated amateur photography, precisely the sort of images that are not usually seen in photography magazines. The title of the magazine is a clever and funny pun , do a quick google search of ‘useful photography’ and you will find all manner of sites to help improve your photography (amongst other things) .

Issue 2 of the magazine is complied entirely of pictures of goods being sold on e-bay whilst issue 3 is dedicated to cow photography ! A war special contains images of camouflage uniforms , a film was made too. Seen out of context the artless images are juxtaposed against each other and are described by Kessels as “naive but useful” .

Kessels believes people like his books because they see themselves and might see the same mistakes they make. This is very true , in my collection I have lots of photographs that in all probability would have been immediately deleted in a digital era. It’s such a shame I don’t have the ‘pictures’ of my mum on her 50th birthday taken by my dad with his Polaroid camera : they were all black !

In almost every picture
(All the books have the same title)
Photographs are reappropriated and the resulting books are fascinating. Once personal images and collections are used to tell stories , yet the original photographs were never taken with that intention in mind.

The books we publish contain images never intended to be arranged as a narrative and bound
Erik Kessels ( Dazed

In almost every picture # 1
The photographs taken by a husband of his wife seen in this book were discovered in a flea market.

In almost every picture # 4
Sisters are seen growing up in Barcelona , always together until the sudden and unexplained disappearance of one sometime during the 2nd World War. There is no explanation for why one sister has vanished , yet because of the uncertainty of the era it seems to suggest a tragedy of some sort , death , exile , extinction.

In almost every picture # 7
This looks a really interesting book , a documentary of one woman’s life . I priced it on Amazon but at £999.00 will not be treating myself ! The book contains images of Ria van Dijk who visited shooting galleries throughout her life. The book is a chronological narrative of her life from her teenage years through to her late eighties. Her prize for hitting the target was a photograph of herself as she took aim ( a camera was triggered each time the bullseye was hit) . The first photograph was taken in 1936 when she was aged just 16 and at each subsequent visit the photograph records the change in both herself and her immediate surroundings.

The book not only traces her ageing process but social change is evident too. Holland was occupied during the war and there are no photographs between 1939 -1945. I wonder what happened to her during those years , where was she? Fashions change as the decades pass we see Ria’s hair change from dark to grey, from a fresh faced teenager she becomes an old woman . In 2006 her walking stick appears , lay in front of her as she takes aim. I wonder who the people are alongside her in each frame ? Changing technology in photography is evident too , the prize image is printed in colour by 1975.

Unfinished Father is a much more personal and serious project.
Prior to his serious stroke Kessels father had worked on and restored four Fiat 500 cars. However his fifth project remained abandoned and incomplete when the formerly energetic man was incapacitated by the stroke. The Fiat was transferred to Italy by Kessels, the shell “came to represent his unfinished father”. Broken and in pieces Kessels exhibited the remains of the Fiat alongside photographs previously taken by his father , a work that alludes to the inescapable transient and frequently chaotic nature of life , and of his father’s shattered life.

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2 thoughts on “Erik Kessels

  1. Catherine

    I didn’t know about that magazine so looked on Amazon and have found one. I’ve also now acquired two photograph albums from the late 1940s containing photographs of my school (and pupils). I’m definitely into vernacular photography at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Judy Bach Post author

    I bought some more old abandoned photographs from a junk shop in Penzance whilst I was visiting recently — how I would love to find an album . Adding to the collection is highly addictive , my hubby is none too impressed , we have hundreds of our own !
    I am currently trying to think of ways I might be able to incorporate some of the found images into the next assignment.



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