The Camera and the Collecting Gene

Philosophy of Photography vol. 3 no. 2 (December 2012): 349-357. 

Abstract 
The merging of the positions of photographer and collector defines the drive of a certain kind of photographic work, for which the camera becomes a collecting device, accumulating a collection that speaks the subjectivity of its author – the photographer. There are, however, two impulses at work here: the photographer-as-collector and the collector-as-photographer. Both are present in the work of Martin Parr, who has openly admitted that he has ‘the collecting gene’, but also, somewhat earlier, in the work of Walker Evans whose obsession with collectibles and whose mode of photographic collecting provide a striking historical precedent for Parr’s compulsive practice. My article explores the collecting impulse that motivates these photographers and, more particularly, shapes a new mode of making photographs and cataloguing social life that seem to escape established genre categories, including especially the category of documentary.

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