Erik Kessles was a strange choice for the fourth B-Sides Box. If you’re unfamiliar, Kessels is an artist that works with photography, largely found, partially produced by KesselsKramer. I sadly missed his 2011 exhibition ’24 Hrs in Photos’ and his series of books of found photography In almost every picture, but I was aware of them, and admire the project. It’s just that the first two B-Sides Boxes featured work from Artists who use cameras to make art, and Kessels uses photography itself…
I’m not complaining… Honest.
The title, Notes on Accidents, points to the blurb on the last card of every B-Sides set. I’ll go ahead and quote it:
All photographers have a secret stash of photographs that float on the margins of published existence. Photographs that never quite fit into their current projects or the narrative of their latest book or show, but that are too good to be left unused. They persist: the photographers pull the out, year after year, they recognize them as great images that should be shared, but the photos somehow frustratingly defy their years of shuffling into categorization or conventional use.B-Sides Box Set about card, appears as the last card in B-Sides Box Sets 2-5 (Todd Hido Homing In, Ed Templeton Loose Shingles, Erik Kessels Notes on Accidents, Vanessa Winship Seeing the Light of Day.
This box set is those photographs, finally liberated from that file labeled Orphans & Misfits.
Now, first off, all photographers may have the file of orphans and misfits, but I doubt they all label the file (or refer to it as) Orphans & Misfits, but that’s a quarrel about semantics.
The reason I see Kessels as an odd choice, is that it moves the B-Sides project from the photobook genre (in my mind) to more of an Art Book type thing. Kessels is, to be sure, an artist. No question. And he has an eye for photography. No question there either. He may even pick up a camera from time to time to document holidays, parties, his children, or whatever. And Todd Hido, Ed Templeton, and Vanessa Winship are all artists as well, but they’re artists who actively photograph.
This doesn’t make much sense, and I know it, but I still feel a bit of unease about a curator producing one of these from found photographs versus artists looking through their archives of orphans and misfits. Sure, the curator may also have a misfits file… Anyway.
It’s hard, therefore, for me to talk about the photography. Kessels has an eye that I don’t have: he’s a Capital-A Artist and knows his stuff. I just know what I like, and while I like this B-Sides Box, while some of the photographic jokes, the wear patterns on the old photographs, the composition and color, are lovely, they’re all the work of others, all unknown and unacknowledged, and I’d hate to be flipping through this and find one of my own photographs…
Still, this doesn’t make a huge amount of sense, it’s just a visceral feeling I have about this B-Sides box.
To be clear, I really love the B-Sides Box Sets, and I’ll continue collecting them, assuming I have the money. I have a couple of incoherent, illogical misgivings about this particular set, and while I understand my own internal inconsistency, I can’t get around it. Still, I recommend Notes on Accidents and the other B-Sides Box Sets. They’re all wonderful. Really.
Erik Kessels’ Notes on Accidents remains available at time of writing, direct from B-Sides. Go and check it out and support the project if you’re able.