The Fussy Eye: Found Photos

A local collector has amassed more than 11,000 snaps.

The small sampling of photos in "The Seduction of Color" is essentially a teaser for the eponymous book (Marquand/Paper Hammer, $45–$150; conveniently on sale for the holidays), which contains a larger selection, 69 images. Yet the bound version of The Seduction of Color holds but a tiny fraction of the more than 11,000 snapshots (!) found by local collector Robert E. Jackson. Not at yard sales or flea markets, he explains: "It's mostly eBay." His curatorial tools, like the buttons on a DSLR, are the keywords he sets for his online searches. With the transition from film to digital, Jackson and other collectors see "a great interest in paper products . . . and a great nostalgia for the 21st century. Most people are trying to take snapshots of the happy things." Thus, for example, a Polaroid of a father and son on a suburban couch, both wearing paper bags over their heads: "They're just having fun with the camera, and sometimes something great happens." The baghead duo becomes a little sadder and more mysterious stripped of context; the effect is like accidental Arbus, Eggleston without the pedigree. An MBA now retired from the financial industry, Jackson also has a master's in art history. Moving from the South to Seattle in 1991, he began collecting in '97, as traditional film photography went into decline. At the same time, he notes, "people are older and dying" from the WWII generation, and dealers are harvesting more and more snapshots from those estate sales. This is Jackson's second book and first stand-alone Seattle show, though the National Gallery of Art featured his collection five years ago (that monograph is also on view here). "Color" represents only about three percent of his holdings, but that fraction will grow, says Jackson. The Boomers will start dying next, leaving all their Kodachrome memories behind. 

 

 
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