When John Foster, of St. Louis, Missouri, sees a Found Photo (aka vernacular photograph) he wonders about the story behind it. We love his collection, especially the pictures that aren’t right, the ones with missing feet and other body parts that any studio photographer would take pains to include; and accidental additions, like the photographer’s shadow or a bystander’s shoe. We call these photos SHOT, pictures made all the more captivating by their imperfections.
As he says, “I am John Foster, and I collect things. Objects. I collect art by people whose names are well known. And objects whose makers are unknown. All of these things hold equal weight in my collection or they don’t stay.” His collection is of “odd and unusual things that have a story behind them… a story that we have to make up ourselves.”
“During the 20th century, almost every family in America either acquired a camera or had access to a camera and they were all documenting birthdays, funerals, weddings, first homes, dance recitals. As the family members pass, these images no longer hold the same meaning to the ones left behind. So they sell them. Estate sales are really the best because the people having them are getting rid of everything, which is different from a garage sale.
“Ninety-nine percent of all snapshots are boring as hell, but it’s that 1 percent that I love so much – an accidental moment of great composition. In a box of 500 photos, I hope that there is one or two that I like. I buy photographs for the extraordinary quality the image has and am hoping to accidentally cross into a Diane Arbus, a Lee Friedlander. … It is the odd, quirky little things that you think, ‘ Wow, that really works!'”
“It is the rare snapshot that makes it into my collection,” he tells us. “I look for images that, in my mind, connect to works by the masters of photography. Whether the image was accidental or intentional doesn’t really matter to me. What I care deeply about is the quality of the image.”
“Portraits by everyday people reveal an honesty usually not seen in professional studio work. Here, we see the subject at ease, disarmed and open because they know who is taking their photograph.”
All images copyright: John Foster/accidental mysteries.com. Images may not be reused or marketed without owner approval.