The project satirized the phenomenon of the fine art photography community being consumed by the larger art world and commercial culture, says Mike Mandel of the baseball-style trading cards featuring famous photographers he created in 1974 and 1975. I photographed photographers as if they were baseball players and produced a set of cards that were packaged in random groups of ten, with bubble gum, so that the only way of collecting a complete set was to make a trade.
I travelled around the United States visiting about 150 photographic “personalities” and had them pose for me. I carried baseball paraphernalia: caps, gloves, balls, a mask and chest protector, a bat, as well as photographic equipment, and made a 14,000 mile odyssey.
Out of this experience came 134 Baseball-Photographer images. I designed a reverse side for the card which would allow for each photographer to fill in their own personal data that in a way referred to the information usually included on real baseball cards: Favorite camera, favorite developer, favorite film, height, weight, etc. I used whatever information each photographer provided me. In a sense, each of their responses provides an insight about how they each approached their participation.
I had 3,000 cards made of each one: 402,000 cards plus 6,000 checklists. The cards were packaged in polyethylene bags, with bubble gum, in random groups of ten. I sold cartons of 36 packs to museums and galleries all over the country. I received press attention from Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, and all the major print media. Thus, the cards were a media event even though they were intended to satirize the media’s impacts.
“I wanted to make fun of the fact that this was a double-edged sword. It was great that photographers were being recognized as artists and that they were getting long overdue recognition, but at the same time there was this other half that came with it, which is this popular celebrity-hood which keeps people from being accessible” – Mike Mandel
“They were kind of making fun of themselves. They were in on the joke that photography was becoming a bigger enterprise, a popular cultural enterprise” – Mike Mandel
Via Mike Mandel
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