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12.04.2017

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The title defines the content of this book, because it seems like the man has multiple lives at his disposal; otherwise it is impossible to understand how he can pull off such immense productivity. Artist, collector, curator, publisher, publicist, designer: there is virtually no personality in the world of photography as enterprising as Erik Kessels. Even before getting active in the arts, he was one of the most important creative minds of our times: he has been the Creative Director of the KesselsKramer Agency in Amsterdam, London and Los Angeles since 1996. So, how does a successful art director from the world of advertising land himself any number of art exhibitions? “It’s a question I get asked a lot. In fact, it was my work in the advertising industry that sparked my fascination for vernacular photography. As an creative director you often work with the images of others. It’s a part of the job I came to enjoy a lot, and in my artistic career outside of advertising I do the same.”

Commercial pictures, however, always have to be perfect and Kessels often found this immaculacy boring, which is why he has developed a certain weakness for imperfection in his personal work. Chance snapshots with errors, photographs that are blurry or overexposed, unfortunate poses and absurd chance encounters: Kessels looks for all this kind of material in the photographic collections of private albums. He categorises them according to distinct themes, and comes up with unique picture series that he has repeatedly presented in books and exhibitions. Without a doubt, the picture motifs found at flea markets or on the internet, are reincarnated in Kessels’ work: they not only get to be observed for longer, they also become representatives of a more conscious way of dealing with our visual heritage. More than fifty books have appeared so far, and this most recently published photo book offers an excellent overview of his work; because, apart from all the curiosities and absurdities, Kessels is always concerned about having a reflective interaction with the medium of photography, especially in this age of overflowing digital imagery. “People consume photographs,” says Kessels. “They don’t look at them any more.”

The photo book contains over twenty picture series, and offers insight into the new contextualisation that Kessels has undertaken with his picture material. With ease and in an entertaining manner, Kessels always manages to perform a surprising balancing act between theoretical media reflection and an excessive appetite for pictures. Ulrich Rüter

All Pictures from The Many Lives of Erik Kessels
(Aperture/Camera, 2017) www.aperture.org


This publication will appear in conjunction with a comprehensive exhibition in Italy: CAMERA – Centro Italiano per la Fotographia, Turin. 31 May to 20 July, 2017. With Erik Kessels & Friends, the NRW Forum Düsseldorf is presenting the first comprehensive retrospective in Germany, from 12 August to 5 November. Artists Paul Kooiker, Joan Fontcuberta, Peter Piller, Joachim Schmid and Ruth van Beek have been invited to include some of their own works at the exhibition.
From the series "in almost every picture #07". Every shot a hit. This series shows the life of a Dutch woman from the perspective of an automatic camera, documenting her passion for shooting stands at her home town’s yearly funfair. This resulted in a very unique cycle of life and pictures that started in 1939 and only ended with the death of the woman in question
From the "Album Beauty" series. An example of the many pieces found in private photo albums, which Kessels puts together to create new relationships and series
Installation shot of "24 Hrs in Photos", FOAM, Amsterdam, 2011. To visualise the incredible number of pictures that are permanently being added in the internet, Kessels chose one specific day and printed up all the 350,000 pictures posted that day on Flickr alone, and piled them into an enormous mountain of images
Installation shot of "My Feet", f/stop International Photography Festival, Leipzig, Germany, 2014. Thousands of pictures constantly posted on line. Even if you only see the people’s feet, the photographs say a lot about the place and the circumstances, but above all about the manner in which pictures are shared today
Installation shot of "Unfinished Father", Fotografia Europea, Reggio Emilia, Italy, 2015. Possibly Kessels’ most personal project is presented in this installation shot: Kessels’ father’s hobby was the restoration of Topolinos (Fiat 500). He has already restored four of these legendary little cars; the fifth one remained unfinished in the workshop after his father had a stroke

Born in 1966, Kessels lives and works in Amsterdam. The KesselsKramer Communications Agency was founded in 1995. Kessels has published over fifty books of collected images, including Missing Links (1999), The Instant Men (2000), the In Almost Every Picture series (2001–ongoing), and Wonder (2006). Since 2000, he has been an editor of the alternative photography magazine Useful Photography, and has curated exhibitions such as Loving Your Pictures (2008), 24 Hrs in Photos (2010), Album Beauty (2012), and Unfinished Father (2015).

The Many Lives of Erik Kessels
Photographs and texts by Erik Kessels
Texts by Francesco Zanot, Hans Aarsman, Simon Baker, and Sandra S. Phillips
576 pages, over 450 four-colour pictures
13 x 21 cm, English
Co-published by Aperture and CAMERA
www.aperture.org
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