Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Mike Mandel

In 1975 photographer Mike Mandel embarked on a rather brilliant project: to satirise the then-new phenomenon of the fine art photography community being consumed by the larger art world and commercial culture in general. To do this he travelled around America with a bunch of baseball paraphernalia - caps, gloves, bats, masks and more - and photographed as many of his colleagues as he could persuade, kitted-out and posing as baseball players. He then produced trading cards of these Baseballer-Photographers, complete with stats on the reverse of the cards, and sold them in packs complete with a stick of gum through galleries and museums throughout the country. The stats listed - along with more conventional details like weight and height - categories such as 'favourite camera' and 'favourite film'.
Mandel got some real heavyweights to participate in this project - legends like Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Harry Callahan, Ed Ruscha, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Minor White, Lewis Baltz and Duane Michals are all 'at bat' - and the resulting series is unexpected, hilarious and also very cool.
Ironically, whilst Mandel set out to satirise the commercialisation of fine art photography, these cards - especially a complete set - are now extremely rare and sought-after collectors' items in their own right.
A couple of years after this project, Mandel went on to cement his reputation as a conceptual force in photography when he created Evidence with Larry Sultan, one of the seminal art photography projects of the Twentieth Century.

All images © Mike Mandel

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