Joachim Schmid

Joachim Schmid – Why do we all take the same photographs?

Over the years, German photographer, Joachim Schmid has bought and collected over 100,000 photographs. ‘Collected’ is not the term Schmid uses. He prefers ‘gathered’ – he see himself as a consumer of images, not a collector. As well as prints he now ‘gathers’ images online.

Other People’s Photographs’ is a series of 96 books comprising of more than 3,000 images that follow specific patterns – bride and groom, groups of friends, hands, nudes, parking lots, all manner of subjects. I read Sharon Boothroyd’s interview with Schmid on weareoca [1]. By curating the pictures into themes he takes a critical look at our relationship with photography throughout the last few generations and how we continually repeat ourselves by taking the same pictures. Schmid states that we all take very similar photographs but we never learned how to do this. “Our parents don’t tell us, we don’t learn it at school, and people all over the world do it nevertheless. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the resulting snapshots do what people expect them to do, and that’s all there is.”  I tend to disagree, this is something we are brought up with. We watched our parents take family photographs, as children we have posed with our beloved pets and favourite toys, we all attend weddings and corporate events where taking photographs are obligatory. We look at albums, more recently online images and we copy the ideas. I say we have learned to all take the same, or very similar, photographs.

Schmid’s archive: photographs of girls with dolls prams….

Joachim Schmid. Archiv 321

Joachim Schmid. Archiv 321

…..And me with my dolls pram.


I am interested in how he retains the physical materiality of the photographs by organising and recycling the found images into ordered arrangements, then into books. Schmid talks about this saying: “An important feature of the work is the physical quality of photographs. They are kind of objects. They have an object like character, people have them in their wallets or wherever and then they tear them apart. I like the physicality of that work and I think it makes most of the fascination.”[2]  It is difficult to cast an opinion on Schmid’s work without seeing one of his photo books, which he suggests are an important aspect of experiencing the work.  His first works with images drawn from the web were presented as digital slide shows. He commented that people spend much more time looking at his books of images, page by page, going from book to book, and that he never saw anyone looking at a computer screen for more than ten minutes.

1. Schumacher S (2013). ASX Interviews Joachim Schmid. American SuburbX. Available from: %5Baccessed 20th January 2017]
2. Boothroyd S (2013). Open College of Arts. An Interview with Joachim Schmid. Available from: [accessed 20th January 2017]