There’s a fascinating show opening at Pace/MacGill Gallery in NYC today: “Snap Noir: Snapshot Stories from the Collection of Robert E. Jackson.” You might wonder, who is Robert E. Jackson? He’s a businessman who lives in Seattle, and he describes himself this way: “I’m not a hot shot, I’m not rich,” Jackson says laughing. “I work in a cubicle.” But about a decade ago, he began obsessively collecting snapshots – he scavenged yard sales, antiques shops, and estate sales, and over these ten years accumulated a collection of over 9,000 photographs. For the most part, these photographs are by unknown photographers, they were simply average Americans trying out their cameras and trying their hand at art. But the pictures are anything but average – might I say that some of them border on the bizarre (and for teachers who might share this with their students, please note that some of the pictures have adult themes).
The pictures, as collected by Jackson and assembled at Pace/MacGill, have obviously been removed from their original context within family photo albums, so the stories or explanations that lie behind the original photographer’s thinking are no longer known. But seeing them in their new respective groupings, Jackson explains that they can “be appreciated and studied as both nostalgic curiosities and sociological artifacts.”
Here’s a few selections from the show. The first pair shows a woman who seems to have an unusual – if not unhealthy – relationship with her stuffed rabbit doll: taking it to see petroglyphs, and introducing it to her Halloween jack-o-lantern. The next trio are from a series of photographs taken while looking through chain link fences, and one wonders: were the photographers simply inconvenienced by the fences, or were they voyeurs who were trying to capture an elusive subject? And the last picture below shows a slice of cold war America: two women in their living room, holding the dog, and wearing gas masks – I just wish they had one for the dog!
The exhibition opens today and runs through August 21st. For more information, check out the Pace/MacGill website here.