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Carl Pope is an observer, who has taken some aspects of snapshots and used them in his work.

As members of a photographic culture, we lug around a lot of psychic and emotional baggage: the past is always with us, in the form of our photographs, which we tell as we might a rosary, wearing them smooth with the fingering of our eyes. Photographs are small and weightless objects in comparison with our larger possessions, but unlike cars and TV sets and other material goods we cannot trade our photographs in and break our attachments to them without considerable pain. It is no coincidence that one cardinal rule in brainwashing is to remove from the victim all photographs of himself and people he has known . . .

– A. D. Coleman, Light Readings, 1979

A.D. Coleman, an art critic who regularly writes about photography, said the snapshot “is an interruption of the flow of events and of time, an interruption whose purpose is to preserve rather than observe.” (New York Times, December 30, 1973) Non-professionals who take snapshots do it to preserve someone’s image or remember an event. The snapshots are personal keepsakes, mementos of a person or time that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Carl Pope is an observer, who has taken some aspects of snapshots and used them in his work. This scene in a bar represents a moment that many of us could find in a family album; but Carl Pope didn’t know the woman in the picture and neither do we. What we do notice is that all the wires from the disc jockey’s equipment appear to run right into the woman’s head, as if he is performing a bizarre experiment on this poor stranger instead of spinning records. If this were your snapshot of Aunt Sally or Cousin Bea, you might consider the picture an embarrassing accident. But in Carl Pope’s hands the picture becomes an intriguing comment on the bar scene in Carbondale, Illinois, and an observation on snapshots themselves.


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Minneapolis Institute of Arts