Exercise: Question for Seller

Nicky Bird – Question for Seller




“Question for Seller originated from my interest in family photographs that appear on eBay. I purchased photographs that no-one else bid for, with the connotation that they were unwanted, and therefore with no significant value. The seller was approached with the question – How did you come across the photos and what, if anything, do you know about them? Their replies, however brief, are as important as the photographs they are selling – sometimes alluding to a part of a discarded family history, or the everyday, where personal photographs have long since lost their original meaning”.

I struggle to understand and find it very sad that anyone would want to sell family photos on eBay, car boot sales or anywhere else for that matter. For me they are so personal and valuable. Maybe that is because I love old photos and family memories are very important for me (as you will have seen from my assignments). I do accept, that maybe the photographs are the result of a house clearance where no family members or relatives survive. Perhaps photographs are lost during house moves, or as happened to me, stolen during a burglary. The meanings behind the images along with the memories may be lost forever. Nicky Bird says “buying someone’s personal history on eBay raises questions for me”. 

Does their presence on a gallery wall give these images an elevated status?
I’m not convinced the images gain an elevated status – as in rank or social standing. If the photographer is renowned then they will have added value. The subject matter may appeal to spectators if there is studium – cultural, historical or social interest. If the images trigger questions or emotions (punctum), then for that individual the images become more important. Whether this could be described as elevated is questionable. I feel it could actually weaken their significance, diluting any intimate familial links.

Where does their meaning come from?
The feeling of nostalgia is the common denominator for all the photographs. This makes for a cohesive series, the link being ‘unwanted’. The word ‘unwanted’ can be a powerful word in warming the hearts of the general public. The sellers were all asked the same question and then through her exhibition, Nicky Bird provided the photographs with an audience, their narrative became open for discussion, the images had a voice once again.

When they are sold (again on eBay, via auction direct from the gallery) is their value increased by the fact that they are now ‘art’?
By auctioning the images – whether one calls them art or not – they become worth something because a (monetary) value has been placed on them. By re-introducing the photographs in an exhibition project, curiosity and interest is aroused. The images and albums were then sold again via an auction, but this time round it was not individual unknown images but whole series promoted by Nicky Bird which gained prominence. The value of the ‘artwork’ in this case was most likely determined by its uniqueness, the buyers of the images, post exhibition are not buying individual images but rather a story, a narrative about the ‘unwanted’. Therefore I feel the value would have increased in both monetary terms and importance.

http://nickybird.com/projects/question-for-seller [accessed 4th December 2016]