I have no idea where I came across Claudio Pogo’s Guide. I thought maybe swerdnaekalb or amolitar put me on to it, but I couldn’t find any reference to the book on their excellent blogs… Oh! Wait… Andrews doesn’t write much on his own blog these days. He’s more often found on Collector Daily, and that’s where I stumbled across this book.
Claudio Pogo’s Guide is a shot-for-shot remake of or homage to William Eggleston’s Guide, featuring photographs that Claudio Pogo found by running Eggleston’s original photographs through “Reverse Image Search Engines” to find “‘visually similar images,'” then selecting from the results. In some cases, the similarities and correspondences between the algorithm-derived pictures and Eggleston’s originals are striking; many are more ho-hum; several suggest what we already know: that Google shows you what you want to see…
I could go sorta psychoanalytical here, but I’m unqualified and just won’t bother. But where Eggleston’s photographs featured friends and acquaintances in various real-looking, more or less daily-life-on-pause poses, some of the sitters in Pogo’s selections are more on the obviously-posed, prurient spectrum, a spectrum that just doesn’t exist in the Eggleston classic (ymmv, of course). And I’ve already made too much of this, but it stuck in my filthy mind, and may Allah forgive me and guide me to better.
As a (formerly) avid vernacular photographer (read: a “happy snapper,” ie. someone with a camera or cameras who makes fairly low-quality, random photographs of nothing, more or less), I have an appreciation for some of Pogo’s algorithm-derived snapshots and frame-grabs. Many seem like photographs I could make; if I trawled my archive, I might find some that come pretty close. Eggleston’s photographs, on the other hand, are far more aspirational: I wish I could make photographs like his; I try and try and always already fail to make Egglestonian photographs, much like I try and fail to make photographs like Hiromix or Mika Ninagawa or my even my Granddad (some photographs of his, and from my dad and other family members forthcoming, perhaps). It should be no surprise: I’m James Cockroft, not a young Japanese woman in 1996, not James P. Benson in 1977 or 1980, and not William Eggleston (nor Claudio Pogo, for that matter) either.
William Eggleston’s Guide is a masterwork of the 1970s. It pushes all the right buttons. Claudio Pogo’s Guide is, at best, a loving homage, if I think of it as a photobook. But Pogo isn’t a photographer, or if he is, his output doesn’t reflect it. From the About page at the end of Claudio Pogo’s Guide (p. 112), “His art practice is based on collecting and re-contextualising photography, fund images, and other archival materials in order to create new visual narratives.” Aha. As an art object, I get it, and Claudio Pogo’s Guide hits a button or two. I’m privileged to have a copy.
Given the low print run of 100 copies, it’s no surprise that Claudio Pogo’s Guide is out of stock. Pogo himself is a bit of a mystery online. His website hasn’t been updated since 2013; his Instagram was last active around the time his Guide came out (roughly a year ago at time of writing.) He has his own publishing imprint, Pogo Books, and founded Outer Space Press (the two acted as co-publishers of his Guide) with Magda Wysocka. Pogo Books hasn’t been active in a year or more; Outer Space Press is somewhat more active: they publish many books by one or both of them (Pogo and Wysocka), as well as books by others. The Outer Space Press Insta is similarly somewhat more active; the PogoBooks Insta is less so.