“People consume photographs,” says Erik Kessels, “they don’t look at them anymore.” It’s a theme he’s played with in his work, most notably in the installation 24hrs In Photos, in which he printed out all the images posted on Flickr on a single day. The result filled a room, and was shown at FOAM, at Les Rencontres d’Arles and at Pier 24 in San Francisco, among many more venues.
But he’s also made many other series and installations, which feature in The Many Lives of Erik Kessels – a mid-career retrospective of 20+ projects, plus essays by curators Simon Baker and Sandra S. Phillips, which has just been published by Aperture and which is launching in London on 18 May.
There’s the In Almost Every Picture, a series of books on vernacular photography that includes shots with fingers straying over the lens, or taken by shooting a fairground trigger. There’s Album Beauty, an installation featuring the fast-disappearing family album. There’s Useful Photography, the magazine he’s edited since the turn of the century, which re-contextualises the anonymous images used in instruction manuals, catalogues, and textbooks.
And there’s Unfinished Father (2015), a very personal work featuring a Fiat 500 car his father was halfway through restoring when he had a stroke, plus the shots he had taken to help him do so; Kessels was nominated for the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize for this installation in 2016.
There’s also the advertising agency he co-founded in 1996, KesselsKramer, which eschews the usual images of perfection for something more flawed, and therefore more relatably human. He’s drawing on his talent for marketing for his forthcoming retrospective, also titled The Many Lives of Erik Kessels, which will be shown at Camera – Centro Italiano per la Fotografia from 01 June-30 July, and NRW-Forum Düsseldorf from 12 August-05 November; Kessels is creating the advertising campaign for the Düsseldorf show, as well as inviting his friends Paul Kooiker, Joan Fontcuberta, Peter Piller, Joachim Schmid and Ruth van Beek to intervene in it.
Erik Kessels is launching The Many Lives of Erik Kessels in London from 7pm-9pm on 18 May at the KK Outlet, 42 Hoxton Square, London N1 6PD. The book is published by Aperture, priced $65. https://aperture.org/ www.nrw-forum.de https://camera.to/